On MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews suggested that only "irregular Republicans" support patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border by the Minuteman Project, a group determined to stop what it calls "[t]he human flood breaching our Homeland Defense." But public-opinion polls suggest significant Republican support for the Minutemen and their activities.
On the June 6 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews suggested that only "irregular Republicans" support patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border by the Minuteman Project, a group determined to stop what it calls "[t]he human flood breaching our Homeland Defense." But public-opinion polls suggest significant Republican support for the Minutemen and their activities.
In a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted May 16-18 -- the only recent national poll on the subject -- 57 percent of Republicans said that they viewed the Minutemen as "concerned citizens doing what the government is not doing," while 28 percent said the Minutemen were "vigilantes who should leave patrolling to professional law enforcement." (Seven percent said they "haven't heard" of the Minutemen, and another 7 percent said they "don't know.")
Older polls on the issue showed a similar trend. An October 2005 CBS News poll showed Republicans split on the issue, and a contemporaneous poll conducted by a Republican polling firm and a September 2005 poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports showed majority support for the Minutemen. The questions in those polls were worded differently, but each poll showed significant support among Republicans for the Minutemen.
In the CBS News survey, conducted October 3-5, 2005, respondents were asked whether "citizen volunteers" such as the Minutemen should be allowed to patrol the border or whether border patrols should be left to government law enforcement. Fifty percent of Republicans said volunteers should be allowed to patrol the border, while 48 percent said they should not.
However, the survey administered by the GOP polling firm, the Tarrance Group, found majority support for the Minutemen among Republicans. That poll, which was commissioned by the conservative Manhattan Institute and conducted among "likely Republican voters" from October 2-5, 2005, found that 59 percent of respondents said they "approve" of the Minuteman Project and its "efforts," while 21 percent said they disapproved, and 20 percent said they were "unsure" or refused to answer.
Similarly, the Rasmussen Reports poll, conducted September 20-21, 2005, found that "[t]he Minutemen volunteers are viewed favorably by 65% of Republicans," and that "Republicans, by a 59% to 29% margin, say that the federal government should encourage citizen patrols along the entire [U.S.-Mexico] border."
Matthews made his comments during a conversation with MSNBC political analyst Ron Reagan and Republican strategist and former Rep. Vin Weber (R-MN). When Reagan suggested that President Bush's "conservative base" disagreed with him on the issue of illegal immigration, because they support the Minutemen's patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border, Weber responded that the Minutemen are "not the Republican base." Matthews then asserted: "OK, the irregular Republicans want to send Minutemen [to the border]."
From the June 6 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Ron, is there a middle on this one?
REAGAN: There doesn't seem to be. Or you could argue that the president has actually struck the middle path here in this. He seems to be trying to do some version of the right thing. Unfortunately, his conservative base doesn't seem to agree with him on this. They want to build walls. They want to put, you know, vigilantes on the border and all that sort of thing. And he's trying to court his conservative base.
MATTHEWS: Who wants to put vigilantes on the border?
REAGAN: Well, you know, the -- those guys that go down there, not the National Guard, of course --
MATTHEWS: The Minutemen.
REAGAN: The Minutemen, exactly, the Minutemen people.
WEBER: Ron, excuse me, could I just -- those are not the Republican base. I mean, they may be vigilantes --
REAGAN: Well, they're somebody's base.
WEBER: They're not the Republican base.
REAGAN: I'm not so sure about that, Vin.
MATTHEWS: OK, the irregular Republicans want to send Minutemen.