Actually, I’m a little surprised that the numbers found by Gallup in its national survey were this close. Fifty percent of Americans oppose the lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice against Arizona over its immigration-enforcement law, while 33% support it. If the Obama administration finds itself encouraged at all to be within 17 on this question, though, the internals should thoroughly depress them, emphasis mine:
Americans’ initial reactions to the U.S. Justice Department lawsuit against Arizona’s new illegal immigration law are more negative than positive, by a 50% to 33% margin. …
Emotions run high on both sides of the issue. The substantial majority of those in favor and those opposed to the lawsuit say they feel strongly about their position.
The margin of opposition to the lawsuit is highest among those who are following news about the law most closely.
Got that? The most politically engaged are the ones opposing the lawsuit. Given the centrality of focus that the Obama administration has given this law over the past three months, this may be the most surprising aspect of the survey. After this much effort to use the Arizona law as a way to beat up Republicans and conservatives, it turns out that those following the issue very closely oppose Obama’s efforts by more than 2-1, 64/31. Those following it only somewhat closely oppose it by a 12-point majority, 52/40. And those not following the issue closely … still oppose it by ten points, 36/26.
The issue certainly plays to Obama’s base, with Democrats solidly in favor of the lawsuit — but not as solidly as one might think. Fifty-six percent of Democrats say they support it, with 27% opposing the lawsuit — a rather healthy chunk of Obama’s shrinking base of support. Only 11% of Republicans favor the lawsuit, with 79% opposing it, as one might imagine. Independents reverse the Democratic numbers and oppose it 2-1, 56/27. That doesn’t bode well for Obama’s coalition of independents and Democrats heading into the midterms, especially after the full-court press Obama has given the issue.
Obama hoped to use this issue to split Republicans and garner support from Hispanic and independent voters. Instead, Obama has helped solidify his opposition and distanced himself even further from independent voters. The immigration gambit has completely backfired on Obama, and he has now inadvertently created an American consensus for enforcement and border security that the media can no longer ignore, thanks to Obama’s high-profile attacks on Arizona.
Update: Fixed an error in the first sentence after the excerpt, which should have read “opposing the lawsuit.” Thanks to the commenters and readers who gave me the heads-up.