Bash repeated Santorum claim on internal polling on immigration, without questioning methodology or results, despite numerous contrary public polls

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

On Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN correspondent Dana Bash uncritically reported that sources within Sen. Rick Santorum's re-election campaign said the campaign's internal polling showed that 85 percent of Americans opposed "what they label as amnesty." But Bash did not actually quote the purported poll or elaborate on how Santorum's campaign defines "amnesty."

On the July 7 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash uncritically reported that sources within Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-PA) re-election campaign said the campaign's internal polling showed that 85 percent of Americans opposed "what they label as amnesty." Bash continued that Santorum's campaign cited the internal polling as evidence that the Santorum-sponsored Border Security First Act, which enhances and expands security measures along the border, but, unlike the immigration bill that passed the Senate, includes no guest worker programs or path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already present in the United States, "is going to appeal more broadly than just to his base." Bash did not actually quote the purported poll or elaborate on how Santorum's campaign defines "amnesty." She also gave no indication of having challenged the campaign's claim that a broad sector of the public is opposed to "amnesty." In fact, polls released publicly have consistently shown that, when specific provisions in various bills on immigration reform are explained, respondents largely support the measures outlined in the Senate immigration bill that opponents of the bill, including Santorum, have attacked as amnesty.

For example, a June 9-12 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released after the Senate bill's passage, asked respondents which bill they supported. Respondents favored the Senate bill, described in the poll as "strengthening security at the borders , including building a three-hundred-and-seventy-mile fence along the border with Mexico" and including "a guest worker program to allow illegal immigrants who have jobs and who have been here for more than two years to remain in the United States," by 50 percent, compared with 33 percent who supported the House immigration bill, which the poll described as "strengthening security at the borders, including building a seven-hundred-mile fence along the border with Mexico" and "deporting immigrants who are already in the United States illegally." According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Santorum has stated of the Senate bill: "People suggest the Senate bill does not grant amnesty and that I am mischaracterizing it .... If I am, then so are 38 or 36 other senators, as well as 230 House members, numerous editorial pages, and a lot of other folks who read that bill and see it for what it is."

In addition, a June 29 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll asked respondents about specific proposals, finding that 67 percent of those surveyed supported granting illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship -- what opponents refer to as "amnesty"; the poll also found that 46 percent of respondents favored a guest worker program, while 22 percent opposed it and 28 percent indicated they had not heard enough about the program to form an opinion.

In addition, multiple polls conducted in May, prior to the Senate bill's passage, showed a majority of respondents support guest worker programs and giving illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. For example, a May 16-17 CBS News poll found that 77 percent of those polled favored "let[ting] illegal immigrants already here for 5 years stay & work if they learn English, pay back taxes and a fine, and have no criminal record." Likewise, a May 16-17 CNN poll showed that 79 percent favored "[c]reating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay in this country and apply for U.S. citizenship if they had a job and paid back taxes." When asked, in a May 4-8 CBS/New York Times poll, whether "most illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years" should "be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status" or "be deported back to their native country," 61 percent supported immigrants having the chance to keep their jobs and applying for legal status. Moreover, a May 5-7 Gallup poll (subscription required) that asked Americans to express their "view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States," found that 61 percent supported a policy that would allow immigrants to "remain in the U.S. and become a citizen." Polls from April also showed consistently stronger public support for the Senate bill than the House bill, as Media Matters has noted.

Bash did not mention these results that apparently conflict with what she reported to be the Santorum campaign's internal poll findings. Nor did she note that it is those who oppose granting illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship who call such a pathway "amnesty," a characterization that supporters of the Senate bill reject. As the polling above suggests, when poll questions spell out the provisions in the Senate bill, as opposed to using politically charged shorthand such as "amnesty," the results are far different from what Bash reported the Santorum campaign claimed.

From the July 7 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

BASH: Now, Rick Santorum is the third-ranking Republican in the Senate leadership and a top target for Democrats. His decision to make border security a defining campaign theme is also a high-stakes test of the power of immigration as an issue in the midterm elections, [CNN correspondent] Kitty [Pilgrim].

PILGRIM: Well, how is this working? Any assessment yet, Dana?

BASH: It's probably too early to tell -- to say. Senator Santorum just introduced this bill on June 23rd. This is really a new effort for him. But I can tell you, talking to people who are working on his campaign, they say internal polls show that this is an 85 percent issue, meaning, when they ask whether or not people are for or against what they label as amnesty, 85 percent say they are absolutely against it. That's why they are convinced, they say, this is going to appeal more broadly than just to his base. But we'll have to wait and see how that plays out.

PILGRIM: Very much a grassroots issue. Dana Bash, thanks a lot.

BASH: Thank you.

Posted In
Immigration
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Dana Bash
Show/Publication
Lou Dobbs Tonight
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