Laughable Amnesty Polling, Politico Edition

By Mark Krikorian on May 19, 2014

They just keep coming. Politico has a story on its own poll crowing that "GOP voters back immigration reform." They asked "likely voters in competitive U.S. House and Senate races" questions on a variety of issues, including this one: "Do you support or oppose comprehensive immigration reform?" Seventy-one percent said they support it, including 64 percent of Republicans.

I'm sorry, but this is a joke.

"Comprehensive immigration reform" is an advocacy term with a very specific meaning, but one designed to sound appealing to people who have no idea what that specific meaning is. Does it mean more immigration or less? Does it include amnesty? Does it mean skilled immigrants are given preference over the unskilled? Does "immigration reform" reflect the agenda of the restrictionist Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) or the expansionist Reform Immigration for America?

Using a term very few respondents are likely to understand allows them to simply impute their own preferences. If, for instance, you were to ask people whether they supported "comprehensive tax reform" you'd also get large majorities. But what would those respondents think the term meant? A flat tax? A consumption tax? Fewer deductions? Higher taxes on the rich?

It's not clear to me whether this was deliberate deception on the part of the poll designers, SocialSphere, or the incompetence of people living in a bubble. Other questions in the survey did not include such advocacy-group terms. For instance, the survey did not ask about "marriage equality," it asked "Do you support or oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry?" The abortion question didn't ask people if they were "pro-life" or "pro-choice" but described four possible viewpoints.

I'm still waiting for ostensibly reputable news organizations to ask things like "The current level of legal immigration is 1 million per year. Do you support or oppose increasing to 2 million a year?" Or "Suppose the illegal immigrants here today were granted legal status. How much confidence do you have that the federal government would enforce future immigration laws to prevent the growth of another large illegal population?"

I'm not holding my breath.