Poll: Majority of Americans favor piecemeal approach to immigration over Senate bill

We already knew a large majority also prefer the more conservative method of securing the border first, before a path to citizenship. Now, the Republican-led House has the support of the American people on both priorities and process.


This makes the second major piece of legislation this year the media and D.C. establishment have fooled themselves into thinking must pass just because they think it must pass. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect they’re projecting their own policy preferences and priorities on an American public that is rather lukewarm about magazine capacity limits and immigration reform when they’re living through their third consecutive “Recovery Summer” sans recovery. To hear the press tell it, the sheer emotional force of the Newtown shootings was sure to propel the Senate to an ambitious assault weapons ban that polling showed most Americans didn’t like and red-state Democrats would regret. Three months into the doomed gun-control quest, they had to admit to the facts that had always been apparent.

Maybe it’s time to do the same on immigration reform. Via The Fix, which is coming to grips with the numbers in a Washington Post/ABC poll, and the fact they vindicate the Boehner approach to this legislation:

The most illustrative number in the whole poll: When asked whether they want the House to vote on the Senate bill or break down the issue into individual pieces, just 32 percent choose the Senate bill and 53 percent choose the piecemeal approach.

Much of the coverage of the immigration issue has focused on the fact that a path to citizenship is popular and that Americans want Congress to pass something. So when the Senate passed a bill that included a path to citizenship along with tough new border security elements that earned some GOP support, it seemed like an approach that Americans could support.

But this poll makes it pretty clear that the American people aren’t really all that on-board with the Senate bill, and thus there is no overwhelming pressure on Boehner and GOP leaders to allow a vote on it.

In fact, you can make a pretty convincing case that Boehner’s approach is the one that Americans prefer. (Though critics would note that it’s much less likely to produce legislation that addresses all the issues the Senate bill would.)


Yes, you can make that case if you aren’t busy focusing on the “fact that a path to citizenship is popular and that Americans want Congress to pass something” because it’s what you want to believe. If conservatives were guilty of “unskewing” polls to their political and strategic detriment in the run-up to Romney’s loss, the White House and media have been doing the same since Obama won.

Among those who prefer the piecemeal approach, 43 percent of Hispanic voters and 50 percent of Democrats.

From the beginning, neither support nor opposition to immigration reform feels as organized as it did in 2007, and polling shows opposition is somewhat stronger than support (only 13 percent would be “angry” if it didn’t pass). Regardless of what you think of the Senate bill, I’ve been saying the backlash for letting it die a slow death would not be tremendous. It’s just a fact that the number of people clamoring for it is low. There is a fair argument to be made that dropping the effort could disproportionately damage Republicans with Hispanic voters, though I’m also not convinced that passing something would be a great boon to the party with the same segment. Polling on that last notion, as interpreted by The Fix:


In addition, just 63 percent of those who would be disappointed would blame Republicans, so we’re really talking about less than one-third of Americans being disappointed and blaming Republicans for it. So it’s not like there would be a huge and instant public backlash if Republicans balk on the citizenship piece (and the vast majority of those who would be angry or blame Republicans likely favor Democrats anyway).

It’s no surprise that upon surveying the situation, taking a pass on the Senate bill looks like Boehner’s best option.

In fact, you can make a pretty convincing case that the preferred method of the White House, Democrats, and the media— one, giant bill with legalization prioritized over security— is the one that Americans have rejected. If that’s the case, isn’t it Democrats who are standing in the way of progress?

Exit question: Second look at House DREAM Act, DREAMers?

Update: And, like clockwork, here’s the Washington Post‘s story on the same poll Chris Cillizza Aaron Blake honestly evaluated in the very same paper. (Corrected to reflect it’s The Fix writer, Blake, not Cillizza.)

Headline: Poll: Immigration a quandary for Republicans

There are plenty of data points to emphasize in any poll, but maybe WaPo reporters should check which ones their political analyst is putting front and center before they put them below the fold, paragraph 12.


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