Media missing half the story on public attitudes about immigration policy


While addressing both Arizona's controversial new immigration law and national immigration reform, media outlets have reported that polls found widespread support for Arizona's law. But these reports ignored recent national polls finding that large majorities also support providing a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Recent polls show broad support for path to legal status for undocumented immigrants

CNN/Opinion Research poll: 80 percent support path to legal status. A May 21-23 CNN/Opinion Research poll found that 80 percent of respondents support a proposal "[c]reating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay here and apply to legally remain in this country permanently if they had a job and paid back taxes."

AP/GfK poll: 59 percent favor providing "legal way" for undocumented immigrants "to become U.S. citizens." A May 7-11 AP/GfK poll found that 59 percent of respondents favor "providing a legal way for illegal immigrants already in the United States to become U.S. citizens."

NBC poll: 65 percent support path to citizenship. A May 20-23 NBC News poll found that 65 percent of respondents support "[a]llowing undocumented immigrants who are already in the country to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become American citizens."

Media ignore public support for path to legal status

In recent reports that address both the Arizona law and prospects for national immigration reform, media have mentioned poll results showing support for the Arizona law while ignoring those that show support for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

LA Times: "[H]opes dim for passage of comprehensive legislation." A May 29 Los Angeles Times article stated of the Arizona law: "Several polls have shown widespread support for the law in Arizona and nationwide." The article also reported: "On Sunday, more than 100 leaders from major Latino organizations will convene in Phoenix to debate new strategies for winning some kind of immigration reform this year. They are close to pushing a new approach as hopes dim for passage of comprehensive legislation that would overhaul key pieces of the entire system and legalize the nation's estimated 11 million unauthorized migrants."

Chicago Tribune: "[M]any think the political climate is not right" for comprehensive reform. In a May 31 article on demonstrations against and in support of the Arizona law, the Chicago Tribune noted that "polls show that most Americans support the law." The article went on to state: "Activists are hoping this energized debate will pressure President Barack Obama and Congress to urgently take up comprehensive immigration reform, though many think the political climate is not right this year."

Juan Williams: Path to citizenship is "very unpopular." During a May 27 NPR segment, host David Greene and NPR news analyst and Fox News contributor Juan Williams discussed poll results showing that the majority of Arizonans and Americans support the Arizona law. Greene asked, "[I]f a majority of Americans support this new law, is President Obama, the administration, just on the wrong side of this, politically?" Later, Williams stated that Obama's "effort to send the 1,200 [National Guard troops to the Mexican border] now is an effort to try to allay Republican concerns and buy them into the larger task of immigration reform that's going to include the very unpopular item of some sort of pathway, if you will, for people who are already in the country to gain full citizenship in this country."

Tucker Carlson: Only Democratic "subset" is "for legalizing people who are here illegally." During the May 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Chris Wallace stated that "the polls indicate overwhelming support for the Arizona law." Moments later, Tucker Carlson stated that in opposing the Arizona law, Obama "is not speaking to the country. He is speaking to a subset of the country, and those are likely Democratic voters, who are passionately opposed to this. They are not for comprehensive immigration reform. They are for legalizing people who are here illegally. And I just reject comprehensive immigration reform. It's language designed to deceive its true meaning."

Neil Cavuto: "Clearly amnesty doesn't work." During a June 2 interview with former Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D), Fox News' Neil Cavuto stated of the Arizona law, "I guess, six, close to seven out of 10 Arizonians are still for this, support the governor? And a like percentage of Americans were polled in the exact same subject have the same views? So something is resonating here." Moments later, while discussing national immigration reform, Cavuto stated that "it was Ronald Reagan who granted close to eight million folks and now the situation is even more out of control," adding, "Crackdown on the border but clearly amnesty doesn't work." [accessed via Nexis]

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