Several media figures have misrepresented public opinion polling on immigration issues in order to falsely suggest that the public opposes providing a temporary work program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. In fact, polling has consistently shown that most Americans favor some form of temporary guest worker program or path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants already in the United States.
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With competing immigration bills passed by the House and pending in the Senate, several media figures have misrepresented public opinion polling in order to falsely suggest that the public opposes providing a temporary work program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants -- provisions that were included in the Senate proposal approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27 but excluded from the House bill that passed in December. In fact, polling has consistently shown that most Americans favor some form of temporary guest worker program or path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants already in the United States.
During the April 1 edition of Fox News Watch, Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton claimed that "polls show 60, 70, 80 percent of the country supports the House approach," which would exclude the guest worker and citizenship provisions, and instead focus on enhancing border security and enacting tougher penalties for illegal immigrants and anyone who employs them or otherwise assists them in coming to and living in the United States. Similarly, CNN host Lou Dobbs claimed during the March 31 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight that "most polls" show that a guest worker program is "opposed by the majority of Americans," while Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes stated that evening on Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume that "many more polls" indicate "opposition to earned citizenship, and against worker program" than in favor of those provisions.
In fact, with the exception of a March 16 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, all recent polls show majority support for a guest worker program or some kind of path to citizenship:
- An April 2 Associated Press/Ipsos poll found that 56 percent of respondents favored temporary worker status for illegal immigrants already living within the United States, while 41 percent opposed such a measure.
- A March 31 Time poll -- cited on Special Report by Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle shortly before Barnes's comments -- found 79 percent of respondents approve of a guest worker program, up 6 percent from the same poll two months earlier. Eighteen percent of respondents disapproved, down from 23 percent two months earlier.
- A March 30 poll released by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 32 percent of Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants already in the United States to stay permanently, while another 32 percent favor a guest worker program for them. Only 27 percent said they should be required to leave the country, as the House bill would require, contradicting Pinkterton's assertion that a vast majority of Americans support it.
The only poll showing majority opposition to a guest worker program, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, indicated that 59 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" oppose a guest worker program, compared with 37 percent who "strongly" or "somewhat" support one.
Pinkerton's assertion came during a discussion with Fox News contributor and American University professor Jane Hall on Fox News Watch; Dobbs discussed the Senate bill with Time magazine senior writer and columnist Joe Klein and New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin.
From the April 1 edition of Fox News Watch:
PINKERTON: The polls show 60, 70, 80 percent of the country supports the House approach on this.
PINKERTON: It's pretty strong. The elites are one way on this issue --
HALL: No, but --
PINKERTON: -- the masses are another way.
PINKERTON: That -- the media can't deal with that because the media are siding with the elites.
From the March 31 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight:
GOODWIN: Well, I think the Democrats are clearly going to go for guest worker amnesty -- however you want to call it. So I think that it's going to be a lopsided vote if it ever comes up really, in the Senate. And in the House too, I think eventually, if there is a reconciliation, Democrats will be with the [Sen. John] McCain [R-AZ]-[Sen. Edward M.] Kennedy [D-MA] kind of bill. [McCain and Kennedy had introduced an earlier version of the Senate bill.]
KLEIN: McCain-Kennedy -- Bush, add to that.
DOBBS: Do you find it amazing, Joe, that here we are with borders that are demonstrably wide open, ports that are demonstrably insecure, that the president has decided to push forward with a guest worker program, which is, by most polls, at least opposed by the majority of Americans? Do you find it just remarkable?
KLEIN: No. Look, the Bush administration made a decision right after September 11th about how to fight the war on terror. They could either -- they could either protect the homeland, protect the ports, secure the borders, or they could fight the terrorists overseas.
From the March 31 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: In fact, people were asked how to deal with illegal immigration, what they think is the best course of action: a guest worker plan, 79 percent in favor; whatever it takes to guard the border, 62 percent; deportation of illegal immigrants, 47 percent. Obviously, those numbers overlap a lot, so a lot of people who like a guest worker plan and also want to do whatever it takes to guard the border. And when asked about concerns about illegal immigration, 61 percent said because it costs too much to provide services for illegal immigrants; 44 percent said it increases the likelihood of terrorism, 43 percent talked about it driving down wages for Americans, who would compete at the lower end of the wage scale.
BARNES: The point, my point is there are many more polls that show just the opposite, opposition to earned citizenship, and against worker program. I like them both, but most people don't.