Bi-Weekly Opinion Roundup: Why High Nationwide Support for S.B. 1070 Isn’t as Bad as it Seems

Since the passage of S.B. 1070, Arizona’s new immigration law, polling has consistently shown that a majority of Americans—not just Arizona residents—support the law. An April 28 Gallup poll found 51% of Americans in support of the law, versus 39% opposed, and a May 9 Pew Research Center poll had support among registered Democrats only at 45% (Sources: Gallup, Pew). On the surface, this seems like bad news for supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, who consider the law unworkable, divisive, and a violation of American values. But in fact, more in-depth polling reveals a somewhat more encouraging picture: an overall thirst for solutions and frustration with current inaction among the American public.

For example, a May 19 poll sponspored by pro-reform group America’s Voice found 57% of respondents in support of an immigration reform plan that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants—and that number rose to 78% after the respondents were exposed to a brief description of the plan (Source: America’s Voice). Even accounting for margins of error and differences in polling methodology between groups, that’s a huge number, and it seems to contradict the earlier Gallup and Pew polls: after all, how could an informed voter support both comprehensive reform and a law as divisive and impractical as Arizona’s?

The answer may lie in a follow-up question from the same poll, which asked why respondents supported S.B. 1070. This question found that only 28% supported the law because they thought it would reduce illegal immigration, and even fewer, 12%, supported the law because they thought it would reduce crime. Instead, a majority of those polled—52%—said that their support of Arizona’s law was because “the federal government has failed to solve the problem” (Source: America’s Voice). In other words, many Americans may want to commend Arizona for any attempt to fix our broken immigration system, even if they don’t agree with the specific solution the law proposes.

Granted, although polls can provide valuable insight, they’re not always a completely accurate reading of public opinion. And people’s views are likely to change once the law actually takes affect on July 28. But these numbers are promising: Americans are desperate for comprehensive reform, and some of the support for S.B. 1070 may come more from frustration than from support of the law’s provisions.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Tags: Opportunity, Arizona, immigration, SB 1070, Pew (all tags)

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