Scott Walker’s legal immigration faux pas

You’re going to hear a lot about polls that show Republicans are in favor of decreasing legal immigration levels. Indeed, some polls seem to show this. But the way these polls are worded makes a big difference.

Gallup discovered in 2014 that 50 percent of Republicans support a decrease in immigration, but the question didn’t specify legal or illegal immigration. A different poll from Fox News put 67 percent of Republicans in favor of a decrease in legal immigration. Case closed, right? While that poll definitely suggests that there are GOP voters who are sympathetic to cutting legal immigration, it also didn’t give respondents the option of saying they’d keep legal immigration levels constant.

When you do offer respondents that option and ask specifically about legal immigration, a majority of Republicans have not been in favor of decreasing immigration levels. A Pew Research Center survey from May 2013 found 53 percent of self-identified Republicans wanted legal immigration levels either increased (20 percent) or kept constant (33 percent). A CBS News poll from April 2013 found that 60 percent of Republicans wanted legal immigration levels either increased (22 percent) or kept constant (38 percent). And conservative Republicans were about as likely as liberal and moderate Republicans to favor maintaining or increasing legal immigration levels, according to the Pew survey.