May 17, 2011

Immigration Politics: The Immigration Paradox

A good analysis of the paradox that polls show a large majority of Americans support amnesty for undocumented immigrants - with the usual conditions - but virtually all Republicans and some Democrats won't vote for it. - The Immigration Paradox - Wednesday, May 11, 2011: "Call it the immigration paradox.

For years, in good economic times and bad, polls have consistently found that most Americans believe immigrants who are in the United States illegally should be provided a pathway to legal status if they take steps such as paying a fine or learning English. And yet, no matter how many times pollsters return that verdict, most Republican and Democratic elected officials alike remain convinced that providing illegal immigrants any route to legal status is a losing cause politically. ...

Republican pollster Whit Ayres (and) Democratic pollster Guy Molyneux agree: “A lot of politicians are dubious.” ...

Intensity trumps the majority?

Ayres says “the answer is intensity. The people who are opposed to some of these initiatives are loud and vigorous and intense, and not shy about sharing their feelings. The people who in favor of some sort of path to earned citizenship are passive, almost in a shoulder-shrug category. The only people legislators hear from are those that are intensely opposed.” That dynamic, Ayres notes, makes it especially difficult for Republican officeholders to defend legalization in a GOP primary.

Democratic pollster Molyneux agrees that among whites, opponents of legalization are much more focused on the issue than supporters. That’s less true now among the population overall, he says, because the issue has increased in salience for the rapidly growing Hispanic population. But the intensity gap among whites, he agrees, discourages support for legalization not only among Republicans but also among Democratic Senate and House members representing constituencies with few Hispanics."

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