Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Almost immediately after Eric Cantor lost his primary, Politico reported on a Public Policy Polling survey that said immigration wasn't the real reason for the defeat:
Opponents of immigration reform seized on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking primary defeat Tuesday night as a clear referendum against a sweeping overhaul -- particularly one that includes so-called "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants.

Not so fast -- at least according to one new poll....

About 72 percent of registered voters in Cantor's district polled on Tuesday said they either "strongly" or "somewhat" support immigration reform that would secure the borders, block employers from hiring those here illegally, and allow undocumented residents without criminal backgrounds to gain legal status -- three key tenets of an overhaul, according to a poll by the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change....

"Cantor didn't lose because of immigration," pollster Tom Jensen wrote in the memo obtained in advance by POLITICO. "He lost because of the deep unpopularity of both himself personally and of the Republican House leadership. Even in his conservative district voters still want immigration reform passed, and they want it this year." ...
Kevin Drum found this plausible, though he acknowledged that "things like question wording can have an outsized impact on questions like this."

Yeah, I'll say.

Here's the thing: A lot of conservatives will say they're for "comprehensive immigration reform" -- but they also say NO AMNESTY!!!1!1! That's what this poll result reflects.

The question -- see the exact wording here (PDF) -- makes the proposal sound very, very tough, and thus the sort of "comprehensive reform" even conservatives approve of:
The bill would secure our borders, block employers from hiring undocumented immigrants, and make sure that undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. with no criminal record register for legal status. If a long list of requirements is met over more than a decade, it provides eligibility for a path to citizenship.
The problem is, it's the sort of proposal that, as soon as it's before Congress, is called "amnesty" by all reform opponents -- because reform opponents call every reform proposal "amnesty." Therefore, it would be automatically opposed by the same conservatives who told PPP they support some sort of reform.

Dave Brat didn't say that Cantor supports immigration reform. He said Cantor supports amnesty. Republican voters believed that. You can make Republican voters believe that any immigration proposal is amnesty. In fact, they believe that 100% of the time, about 100% of proposals, because they're told they should by demagogues who oppose immigration reform under any and all circumstances. Therefore, this poll is meaningless.


Victor said...

After the immigration question, I'd write a couple of follow-up:
1. How much would you support general amnesty - on a scale of 1 to 5?
1 - Being I totally support it.
3 - I have middling support.
5 - I don't support it at all.

And if you support amnesty at any level, which groups do you support amnesty for - and use that same 1 to 5 scale?:
1. All.
1 2 3 4 5
2. White Europeans and Canadians.
1 2 3 4 5
3. People from Mexico and Central and South America.
1 2 3 4 5
4. Asians.
1 2 3 4 5
5. Africans.
1 2 3 4 5
6. Indians.
1 2 3 4 5
7. Middle Easterners.
1 2 3 4 5

And at the end of the poll, ask the typical questions of the person, about age, gender, and ethnicity.

THEN, you might get a true reflections of people's opinions.

PS: I know I'm missing some questions and options - sorry.

sdhays said...

Also, asking what "registered voters" in an extremely low-turnout election (as all primaries are) think in Cantor's district isn't a very good measure for why he lost. "People who actually voted on Tuesday" are the only people who's opinion can shed any light on why they kicked him out.

Yastreblyansky said...

Sounds to me exactly like the ACA vs. Obamacare debate. There's a majority for what we used to call amnesty back when Reagan was successfully promoting it, but not if they understand it's amnesty.

Tom Hilton said...

One thing I think Maddow really missed last night: the opinions of the district as a whole, or even of Republicans in the district, aren't necessarily relevant to those of the small self-selected set of people who went out and voted in the primary. I think for primary voters, immigration probably was the motivating force.