Panel Transcript: Elite vs. Public Opinion

An Examination of Divergent Views on Immigration

Related: Report, Video


Moderator: Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies; co-author of "Elite vs. Public Opinion: An Examination of Divergent Views on Immigration"

Roy Beck, Execiutive Director for Numbers USA Education And Research Foundation; co-author of "Elite vs. Public Opinion: An Examination of Divergent Views on Immigration"

Scott Rasmussen; President, Rasmussen Public Opinion Research

James Gimpel; Professor, Department of Government, University of Maryland

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  I would like to thank you all for coming to our panel discussion on public opinion and elite opinion on the issue of immigration.  My name is Steven Camarota and I am director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies here in Washington.  Our website is  The Center for Immigration Studies is the nation’s only think tank devoted exclusively to studying the impact of immigration, its many impacts I should say, on the United States.

Now, the report that we are releasing today—it’s in your packet and it’s on the righthand side of the packet.  It is based on a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.  The survey was conducted in May through July of this year.  The council is a non-profit organization and the council itself has a long history of surveying both elite and public opinion on the issue.  Now, the council did not sponsor this.  We simply got the publicly available information from their website and have provided a detailed analysis and summary of what they did.

Let me just briefly tell you a little bit about again the data source.  It was based on 2,800 telephone interviews from across the country of ordinary Americans and the polling of the elite, which is what makes the survey so interesting, was based on 400 individuals who are described as opinion leaders.  This includes members of Congress, the administration and the leaders of church groups, executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies, union leaders, journalists, academics, think tanks, interest groups.  It’s a really interesting cross-section and one that we hope is representative of elite opinion in the United States. 

Now, the full results of the survey, which cover dozens of questions, is available at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations’ website.  Again, they have not sponsored this research.  We have drawn our report together from the various parts of that survey.  It’s a very long report at their website, over 200 pages.  And one of the most interesting parts of the survey’s results is what we’re going to talk about today, as I said, elite versus public opinion on the issue of immigration.

Now, while the report that the Council put out has generated some interest, I should point out that the current issue of Foreign Policy Magazine actually has a discussion of the survey’s results.  But that deals mostly with the differences between opinion in the United States versus Europe, and that’s a very important topic.  But no one to date has actually looked at this question domestically, how elite and common person opinion differs in the United States, specifically on the question of immigration.  And so that’s what makes this so important, and that’s why we’ve conducted—we have this summary and analysis on elite versus public opinion on immigration. 

Now, let me introduce the panelists who will be joining us to discuss this question.  To my right is the co-author of the report, along with myself, Roy Beck.  Roy is currently the executive director of and you can visit their website to learn more about that organization.  Numbers is a non-profit organization that tracks the vote of each member of the United States Congress and how the positions members take affects U.S. population growth, and of course, they also discuss the environmental implications of that.

Now, Mr. Beck was, going back to the 1960s, maybe longer than he cares to remember, one of the nation’s first environmental beat reporters in the United States.  He is also a former Washington correspondent for Newhouse Newspapers, and he is the author of several books on the issue of immigration and the environment and population growth.  His most important work is this book, The Case against Immigration, which I believe has completely sold out now and maybe you can get it as a used book on  In any event, it was an important book at the time and is still widely read on the issue of immigration. 

Now, joining Mr. Beck, we have two panelists.  Our other panelist is Scott Rasmussen.  Scott Rasmussen is an independent pollster—he’s to my left.  Scott is an independent public opinion pollster whose data and insight can be found on his website,  Scott has actually just released a special report on the American political scene, this report right here.  It’s called ‘The GOP Generation:  Will the Republican tide keep rising?’  He’s actually going to be on Fox News tonight discussing what his conclusions are.  So Scott is eminently qualified to talk about polls and opinions, which, of course, is our subject today. 

Before turning things over to Mr. Beck to summarize the findings, let me at least briefly mention a couple of things to keep in mind as Mr. Beck presents the results.  I think that there are two key things about this report, looking at immigration and public opinion—for the public versus the elite.  One of the things is that the gap between the perception of immigration, whether it’s legal immigration or illegal immigration, between the American people and the nation’s leaders appears to be probably the largest gap on any series of foreign policy related issues, and perhaps on any issue.  So I think that’s really important. 

In fact, to my left here is one of the figures from the report, and what it shows is the share of both the public opinion and elite opinion who feel that large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the United States represents a critical threat to the vital national security interests of the United States. 

In 1998 there was a very large gap: 55 percent of the American people thought it was a critical threat, while only 18 percent of the elites thought so, and even more astonishing, that gap has actually grown.  In 2002 the survey found that 60 percent of elites—60 percent of the public thought immigration was a critical threat, but only 14 percent of the elites did.  So the gap was very large.  In the past it’s gotten even bigger.

So that’s one of the, I think, take-home points, and let me just touch on something else to keep on mind.  As anyone who follows the immigration issue knows, the United States increased, to some extent, Border Patrol resources, and at the same time cut back on enforcement of immigration laws within the United States.  What could explain such a schizophrenic policy?  Well, what I think clearly is likely to have contributed to that is this elite-common person divide.   

The public wants something done about illegal immigration.  This question doesn’t actually deal with it, that’s up there, but the point is there are questions that do in this survey, and Mr. Beck will discuss them, and what they show is the public’s very concerned about illegal immigration.  But what it also shows is that America’s opinion leaders, that is journalists, business leaders, political leaders, are not concerned about illegal immigration virtually at all, or not very much.   

And so what we have is a policy of increased border patrol and less interior enforcement in the ‘90s.  And I think what this survey does is at least help us understand politically why that would happen.  So I think that’s the two things to keep in mind, the gap is big and I thin it explains a lot of what we’ve seen on immigration policy. 

With that I will turn it over to Roy Beck, executive director of 

ROY BECK:  Okay.  Well, picking up from Steve’s point about this explaining so much, I, like probably most of you in this room, have followed polling on immigration for years, and it’s no surprise that the public has—I guess polls have shown since 1976 the public has wanted to see lower legal immigration and definitely a holt to illegal immigration.  And we also have known that there’s some split between the public and elite.  But I have not—I don’t know that I’ve ever seen polling such as this one from the Chicago Council that helps show that so well. 

I think it’s particularly helpful in understanding what’s happened in this Congress.  And it’s interesting to sit and think what does it feel as a member of the public, the general public, and watch what Congress has done on immigration the last two years, or to sit there from the standpoint of an elite.  From the public who is overwhelmingly very concerned about immigration overall, what they’ve seen is constant fights to increase immigration, to reward illegal immigration, and by rewarding illegal immigration to encourage more illegal immigration, with very little actual change in cutting back in illegal immigration.

What’s a public to think that wants this kind of change?  They want to see immigration brought down and yet there have been no battles to make it—to move immigration in the direction of what the public wants, the battles have all been about leaders pushing the other way.

But I think even more perplexing may be from the standpoints of the elites.  At the beginning of this Congress, January of 2001, the stars had come in alignment to really jump our immigration level forward.  Not only were the corporate elites in Washington pushing for amnesty for illegal aliens, for weaker enforcement against illegal immigration and for more foreign workers, but you had the unions for the first time in their history, AFL-CIO, joining the corporations seeking more foreign labor and an amnesty for illegal workers. 

You also had not only the leadership of the congressional Democrats who had in the previous two or three years really been pushing for this same kind of thing along with corporations, so you had the corporations and democratic leadership pushing forward, then you had the unions join and then you had a Republican president and the National Republican Party apparatus combined, plus a tremendous amount of help from various national religious leaderships, lots of support from editorial boards of major newspapers around the country.  It appeared that virtually everybody was in favor of pushing some kind of an amnesty through.   

And yet the flag went up the pole, down the pole, up the pole and down the pole for two years.  It was—and it usually came down the pole in tatters.  At the end, not only was there no large-scale amnesty, but they were not even able to pass a four-month reinstatement, only four months, a four-month reinstatement of the Section 245 amnesty.  Now, Section 245(i), just to remind ourselves, is a de facto amnesty in that it allows—this would allow perhaps a half million illegal aliens to sign up for a green card in this country instead of following the rules to go back home.   

But because the INS had a policy of virtually never deporting somebody, an illegal alien who it signed up under 245(i), they might be able to stay for two, five, 10 years as an illegal alien before they actually got their green card without any threat of deportation, and that’s why it’s a de facto amnesty.  Even that could not go through even though the White House made it one of its top foreign policy priorities repeatedly, especially during this year, 2002. 

Now, some people say, well, September 11 must have explained why that happened, but as we can see, well before September 11 of 2001 the public was very concerned about this.  This split existed already.  In fact, you may just remember the history of this year, excuse me, of 2001, is that when this idea of a significant amnesty for Mexican illegal aliens was brought up in July of 2001, the response from the public was so great that the White House, in the middle of August, was backing away from this proposal. 

The fact is that about three or four weeks before September 11 the Mexican amnesty proposal was really back on ice.  About a week before September 11 the White House was talking about how it’s going to take a while to really bring the political situation around so that something like that could pass. 

Now, as we see, September 11 did increase the public concern, although it also shows that the public was largely concerned already about the total flows of immigration.  I think it suggests that the public’s fears were much more in line with reality than the opinion leaders.  And so when September 11 happened it’s not like the public was extremely shocked that our sieve-like immigration system had contributed to something like that. 

But probably even more surprising, though, is that it didn’t affect opinion leaders.  In fact, it seems to have caused opinion leaders to be less concerned.  It’s a little hard to explain; I’ll look for some other expert to help us understand that.

Very quickly on some of the key findings in the Chicago poll.  One of the things that was so interesting was that they found that when asked an open-ended question, what is the most important foreign policy issue facing the country—now, this is a different series of questions than what you see on this chart.  What is the most important—what are the two or three most important foreign policy issues facing the country?  It was sixth out of was it 53?  I think sixth out of 53 --

ROY BECK:  it suggests that immigration as a whole may be approaching some safe political salience.  The generally held opinion is that until an issue is of one of the top two or three concerns for a person, that person doesn’t politically do much about it.  And the fact that it ranked sixth out of all of these issues suggests that it’s really getting up there to a point that it could have some major impact in political considerations.  It’s also interesting that this has happened really without any significant national leadership leading the public.  Neither of the political parties and certainly none of the elites that were measured in this—media, college presidents, scholars, unions, corporations, religious leaders, none of these leaderships have embodied any kind of leadership in terms of suggesting there’s a concern about immigration.  So the public is coming to this concern.  Where is it coming from?  It’s an interesting question.  But obviously it must be heartfelt to come in that direction. 

Let me go through three or four key things that I found most interesting, that are in the midst of this study.  One of them is that in a different series of questions when they ask people and ask leaders, is immigration an important threat . . . when you look to see what percentage of different groups, what percentage of these groups on different questions said this is not an important threat, right?  On immigration, the opinion elites, 41 percent said immigration is not an important threat.  Only 14 percent said it’s a critical threat.  But it was, is it a critical threat.  Is it an important threat?  It’s not important, claim elites.  Forty-one percent of elites say it’s not an important threat. 

You might think, well, maybe the opinion elite just aren’t easily scared and so they’re not scared about a lot of other things.  But it’s interesting when you look at what percentage says it’s not an important threat for Islamic fundamentalism, three percent.  Three percent of opinion elite, Islamic fundamentalism is not an important threat.  Tensions between India and Pakistan, one percent of opinion elite, not important threat.  The development of China as a world power, six percent of opinion elite say not an important threat.  But immigration, 41 percent, not an important threat.  Really, it’s an incredible lack of interest compared with other issues whereas with the public, eight percent of the public says immigration is not an important threat.  Great disconnect.

However, there’s another way of looking at the same question, looking at critical and important threats, and that is how many people answered, how many of the opinion elite said it’s important but not critical.  In that sense, it’s not quite—the difference maybe is not quite as stark as it first looks.  That is, the plurality of opinion leaders did not answer it’s critical, did not answer it’s not important.  But they answered it is an important but not critical threat.  So 45 percent of the opinion leaders say it’s an important threat but not critical.  That suggests the possibility for the opinion leaders and the public that they could move toward each other at some point. 

One expects, though, that movement comes from the people on the ends and that is when you realize that three times more opinion leaders say immigration is not an important threat than say it’s a critical threat.  That seems to be what is driving public policy and driving leaders like President Bush and the Democratic leadership.   

In terms of the implications for this, one would guess that the public hasn’t a national leader stepping forward to lead them, the public, in order to make a difference on immigration policy, [but] has to sidestep and bypass the opinion elites.  And the opinion elites, for the most part, are representing them.  That is, most Americans are in some way represented in Washington by union leaders, corporate leaders, religious leaders, very special interests, alma maters and yet the people representing them have almost a diametrically opposed view of immigration than their membership.  The unions would be one of key areas.  The Zogby poll that the Center did a year ago shows a tremendous disconnect between union members and the AFL-CIO position on open borders.

There are also questions in here asking opinion about should immigration be reduced, kept about the same, or should it be increased.  Not surprisingly, 55 percent of the public said it should be reduced.  Eighteen percent of leaders said it should be reduced.  Fifty-five to 18 percent split.  However, President Bush and the Democratic congressional leadership have not been able to succeed in pushing through increased immigration, particularly with amnesties.  And perhaps, one of the reasons they haven’t is because even on this, they don’t represent the opinion elites because the opinion elites— only 21 percent of the opinion elites think that immigration should be increased.  So, in this case, President Bush and the Democratic leadership are going against 85 percent of the public who don’t want to increase immigration and 79 percent of the opinion elites, who don’t want to increase immigration.  There’s one place where they’ve gone even beyond the opinion elites.  Although perhaps, there’s an elite of the opinion elites and I guess that’s what we hear in Washington. 

Finally—and we’ll have a chance to talk about a few other things later in the question and answer.  Usually whenever an issue is a conservative or liberal issue, you’re going to find significant opinion elite that will be taking both sides of an issue.  In this case, on immigration, you don’t.  You have an overwhelming opinion [among] the opinion elites that it’s not particularly interested—not critically interested in this issue.  And you find it [among] conservatives and liberals.  That’s why it looked like amnesty should go through this Congress.  The liberals, the conservatives, business, labor, Republicans and Democrats at the top are all in favor of this.  It didn’t happen.  When you have that kind of a difference between all the opinion elites versus the public, this suggests it’s not a liberal/conservative issue; it’s an elite/populist issue.  This is an issue that, for political considerations, is one that, if approached, I believe, from either a liberal or conservative point of view, the user of the issue will lose a lot of power [The speaker may have misspoken here and intended to say “gain a lot of power.”].  That is, this issue is one that, in order to gain political strength from taking it on, it has to be approached from a populist issue, which appeals to both liberal and conservative concerns of the public. 

Then, having gone through all of this, it raises a number of questions and that is why are the elites—why are the opinion elites so different in their opinions about immigration from the public?  What’s caused this?  There are some indications in the poll.  Maybe the most telling indication is that the only issue [for which] there is a wider difference between the opinion elites and the public than on immigration is the question about whether foreign policy should protect American jobs.  Opinion elite, unconcerned, even more unconcerned than on immigration, and the difference is just a bit larger than immigration.  I think that’s probably an indicator that the opinion elites are in jobs that are the—they’re in jobs that place the greatest premium on mastery of the language and the culture of America and therefore, they are the least susceptible to job competition from foreign workers being brought in.  The public, in general, is not in the same conditions [and therefore] is much more concerned about jobs.

So, the fact the opinion elite are both unconcerned about immigration and American jobs, in terms of whether foreign policy should protect American jobs, perhaps gives us at least one major indicator of why there is such a difference.

Thank you. 

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  Well, thank you, Roy. 

A point of clarification.  On the issue of whether something constitutes a critical threat, there was no issue on which the public and the elite differed more widely.  However, on the issue of whether we should try to reduce illegal immigration, why is that an important goal for the United States, there was one issue that was slightly higher.  So on illegal immigration, they’re about the same.  On the critical threat, which is the figure we have up here to my left, there was no larger difference, and on illegal immigration, there was one issue that was slightly larger. 

With that, I’d like to turn it over to Scott Rasmussen.

SCOTT RASMUSSEN:  Thank you.  A lifetime ago I did a lot of work for the term-limits movement and so I understand about this gap between elite opinion and public opinion very clearly.  With term limits, 75 percent or more of the public was always with us and 75 percent or more of the elites were always against us.  So I don’t see a gap like this as terribly surprising, although the gap on immigration issues is among the largest that I see in policy issues today.

My own personal bias is whenever I see a gap between the elites and the public I tend to think the elites have something to learn, that they’re missing some element of common sense or not understanding the issue properly.  And so when I begin to look into data like this, that’s the perspective.  I try to understand what is going on.

I do think just one general point on the data itself that I think has to be brought up, I don’t believe the gap has grown in the last few years, I think that’s just a statistical fluke.  The numbers are pretty close.  The gap was large four or five years ago between elite opinion and public opinion on this and it’s very large today.

But when you look in the data and try to understand why this difference takes place, I think one of the reasons is because the issue cuts across political lines in a way that the elites don’t want to talk about.  It’s not the top tier issue; it is an issue that can burn lots of people and lots of time.  To give a very simple example, Republicans right now are in majority status, looking for ways to increase that majority status.  They’re looking for ways to reach out to minority voters.  And to the degree that immigration policy looks like it mind offend minority voters that creates a conflict the Republicans would rather not talk about.  So I think one of the reasons the issue stays a little below the surface and is problematic is because people don’t want to discuss it.

In the broader sense, though, the report that was put out today talks about [why] there should have been some kind of a change from September 11—because of the events of September 11th and the attitudes towards immigration.  Everything in America has changed since that awful day and the intensity of various issues has changed, and I think that has a big impact on immigration policy. 

Let me give you an example that doesn’t deal directly with immigration.  First, in the 2000 presidential elections national defense and security issues were ninth on a list of most important issues in some surveys I did.  By this time they’re number one on that list of issues.  So people didn’t change their perception of how we should deal with national security issues but they did change their perception of how important those issues are.

Something that happened after September 11th that deals primarily with foreign affairs but has some significant implications for the immigration debate is that President Bush has responded to the terrorist attacks in a way that implies that the USA, our nation, we’re the good guys.  That resonates with the American people.  Eighty-four percent of Americans say that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world.  Over 70 percent say that if more nations were—if other nations were more like us, the world would be a better place.

We saw that basic attitude play out in the debate over Iraq when some people said you need to cooperate more with our allies.  President Bush did go to the U.N. and others to talk about cooperation, but when he broke down the survey data what you learned is the idea of cooperation was popular because your mother always taught you to share and cooperate and play nice with other kids.  It’s a nice thing to do. 

What the American people meant by cooperation was yes, we should work with others if possible to pursue our own national interests first, and where that played out in the data is that most Americans said that cooperation means that other nations should follow our lead more often.  Only a small segment of the population said that cooperation means we should follow the rest of the world more often. 

Now, this begins to work its way down to the immigration debate as an attitude that this is a good place to be, it is a good country to live in, it is a privilege to live here, and people that come here to live as immigrants should become part of their melting pot.  Americans overwhelmingly believe that if you come here as an immigrant that you should adopt—that you should move into American culture rather than staying separate and retaining your strong ties to your country of origin.

That is a fact that has changed I think the perception of what immigrants means, coming to a melting pot or retaining your own heritage has changed in recent decades.  And I guess one of the reasons why we have an increase in this gap has been cited in the report.  When you poll among the public, if you ask about people who are interested—if you poll about immigration in general we always get numbers like you’ve seen here. 

If you poll about should people be allowed to come into this country who will be able to financially support themselves, who are not a security threat, and a whole bunch of other conditions that these people are not only not a danger to us in financial or other ways, but also they contribute to America, people say, sure, we should have more immigrants come in.  We should have people like that come here.  But I look at it a little bit like who would you invite into your house. 

There are some people that I would invite to my house as part of a large party of guests because they seem nice and friendly and we can chat on a very casual basis.  Just because they come here to that one party doesn’t mean I’m going to invite them to spend the night alone with my kids when I’m traveling somewhere.  There is a process of getting to know somebody better and asking a series of questions before you would let them into your house in that more intimate way.

And I think that same thing applies sort of as a national attitude on immigration.  There is a sense [that] we would like our country to be seen as an open country.  We’re proud of the fact that people want to come here, we’re proud of the fact that it’s a good country.  But we don’t have any sense that anybody in government authority knows who is coming into the country, knows who is staying in the country, and really even on the basic issues of a security threat if we have any control of our borders. 

In the immediate future I think what this means for immigration policy is that it will continue to be led around by other issues.  For example, in the wake of September 11th it is easier to raise questions about security clearance for immigrants than it would be some other issues.  But in the longer term what really matters in the immigration debate is what—is how it plays out within the Republican Party.  And the reason I say that goes back to my worldview that’s reflected in the report on the GOP generation. 

Right now today if President Bush can successfully resolve the Iraqi situation, the Republicans are positioned to have control of both houses of Congress for at least a generation.  That’s partly because of some trends that have been building for a couple of decades, partly because of institutional factors.  And again, it is based in the notion that President Bush does well in these next couple of years, particularly with regard to Iraq.

In that dynamic, if the Democrats are a minority party, they do have the ability to obviously influence debate and have some influence on issues that are, that they can be united on.  But the Democratic Party is split in two between a very liberal wing and a more moderate new Democrat wing.  The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has difficulty—and this is among the general public, self-identified, liberal Democrats have trouble with the notion that the USA is the best country in the world and that the rest of the world should follow our lead.

Among self-identified, liberal Democrats it’s not a clear-cut decision as to whether immigrants should be encouraged to become part of the melting pot or retain their own heritage.  So because that liberal wing of the Democratic Party has views that are so out of sync with the general public, the Democrats will not be a major factor in the debate for a period of time.

Within the Republican Party the immigration issue creates lots of problems.  I’ve already mentioned that it can create some difficulties for a party that is trying to reach out to minority voters and we’re seeing with some other news events in the headlines recently that, you know, this is an issue that does create difficulties for Republicans. 

There’s another part of the Republican coalition, the free market wing, that also has difficulties on the immigration issue.  And because of that there’s this conflict among the Republican elites on the issue of immigration that basically they would rather not talk about it.  It’s a lot easier for the Club for Growth to go out and talk about tax issues and other things and don’t bring this issue up.  It’s a lot easier to go and talk about some other outreach efforts if you’re a Republican official and not talk about this issue because of the public reaction to it.

What this means over the next decade or so is Republicans do have an opportunity to seriously address the issue within their elites.  If they handle it well by finding some common ground among these competing groups they could show some leadership on the issue, develop some policies that would address some of the public concerns and address some of the substantive issues.  And if they do that, [they] really strengthen their own majority position.  The Republicans have a self-interest in finding a solution or at least a partial solution to these political tensions. 

If the Republicans ignore it or can’t find that common ground, you know, it can blow up in their face and be a threat to the lasting GOP generation.  When you look at the data I think the biggest problem that people who are for lower levels of immigration have is they don’t want to let it create the impression that we’re going to put up a wall and don’t want anybody to come to our country.  Americans are proud of our country and are happy that people want to come here.   

However, the other side of it is just as important.  People want to be careful about who is moving here and what they’re doing once they get here.  People want to make sure that, when somebody comes to this country, that number one, they can pay their bills, number two, they’re not a security threat and number three, that’s most important, that ties right into the theme that President Bush has tapped into since 9/11, we want to make sure that somebody who comes to live in America wants to become an American, wants to become more part of our culture, be proud of the heritage of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and others and say this is something that’s been a force for good in the world and we’re proud to be part of it.  And if policies are designed to begin to push in that direction, the Republicans can capitalize on the issue.  As I said before, if they don’t, it will blow up in their face and threaten the lasting Republican majorities. 

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  Thank you, Scott. 

Our last panelist is James Gimpel.  Professor Gimpel is a professor of government at the University of Maryland in College Park.  He is a constant author and analyst on the issue of immigration in American politics.  One of the most important books, I think, and really a must-read on the issue of the politics of immigration, is a book that he co-authored with James Edwards, called ‘The Congressional Politics of Immigration Reform,’ and it looked at the immigration debate in the mid-1990s.  He also wrote a more recent book called ‘Separate Destinations: Migration, Immigration and the Politics of Place,’ and I can think of no one more qualified to talk about the issue of the politics of immigration than Professor Gimpel.

JAMES GIMPEL:  Well, thank you, Steven.  We’re reminded in this very interesting report that average Americans are not in the driver’s seat when it comes to immigration policy.  Not only are they not in the driver’s seat, they are way in the back of the bus.  And I think the questions for most of us that work in this area when we see astounding gaps between elite and mass opinion like this is why, and a number of explanations come to mind for this gap between opinion leaders and the public.  One is the economic argument and the one that the report highlights toward the end.  The elites have an interest in unlimited immigration that masses do not.  It’s the cheap labor argument.  Elites have ways of profiting from mass immigration that average Americans do not.

The second argument is political.  This is the one that Scott Rasmussen highlighted in his remarks.  Immigration policy in recent times has been linked to the politics of race and there is this propensity to be branded a racist, if you come out in favor of any kind of immigration control and immigration reduction.  This is true in academic circles, the circles in which I travel.  It’s also [true] on Capitol Hill and the politics of race is extremely potent, again as Scott mentioned.  Recent problems with our Senate majority leader, it’s very clear that being called a racist is a very difficult charge to overcome.  It’s a favorite tactic of pro-immigration lobbies in Washington to accuse people who favor immigration reduction or control, as being racist, and it’s an effective weapon. 

I guess the third argument for the gap is one that’s popular in the elite academic circles again in which I travel and that is the masses are just ignorant.  They haven’t thought about the issue enough.  They are unwashed.  If they would have given as much thought as the elites, then clearly, they would have come on board, understanding the true costs and benefits of immigration.   

As we’re evaluating these three very compelling arguments, I have to say that it seems true that many natives are economically threatened by low and declining wages in occupations that natives formerly occupied.  For the last three years, I’ve been involved in studying the meat packing industry in mid-western states.  It’s the subject of a forthcoming book.  You know, those meat packing job were once held by native-born Americans.  Now those meat-packing jobs are held almost exclusively by immigrants.  And there’s some truth to the fact that average Americans don’t want to work in those meat packing plants.  But that’s because the wages have declined to such a point that those jobs are not attractive to them any more.   

At one point, all those jobs, all of them were held by native-born Americans.  Look at Green Bay, Wisconsin, for instance.  Look at Perry, Iowa.  Look at Storm Lake, Iowa.  These are all towns that are centered on the meat packing business and immigrants occupy almost all of those positions.  I think that the report’s argument that the economic threat is real is clearly bolstered by some recent academic writing, in the writings of George Borjas, for example, a Harvard University economist. 

I also think that the finding in table 2, if I can refer to table 2 of the report, where they show that elites don’t seem to care much about protecting American workers’ jobs.  That would clearly suggest to me that there’s an economic motivation that helps to explain this gap. 

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  That’s actually table 1.

JAMES GIMPEL:  Is that table 1?  I beg your pardon.  There’s this huge difference between elites and masses in the concern for American workers’ jobs.  And the fact that elites, as Roy Beck pointed out in his remarks, don’t seem to have to worry too much about their jobs, it seems to be a pretty sound explanation, at least a very plausible explanation for why we see this gap.

I think the political explanation that Scott Rasmussen alluded to also carries considerable weight.  You have to wonder if it’s even possible for anyone these days to argue for immigration reduction without being racist or without being called a racist.  You also have to wonder if rank and file African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans who regularly express reservations about illegal immigration aren’t racist, as the white people who do.  That’s something that’s occurred to me in thinking about the politics of this issue.  

Part of that question is answered about whether you can be for immigration reduction without being a racist.  Clearly average Americans do not have to fear the politics of race because they’re not office holders.  This tremendous fear of having the race card played against you is going to hobble any action on immigration reform as long as immigration and race are linked.

As for the ignorance explanation that the masses are just somehow unwashed, that they haven’t given the issue enough thought, that they don’t know the facts.  [Well, on the questions in the survey that do not touch upon immigration and for which there is far greater similarity of opinion between the public and elites, one has to wonder, is the public merely ignorant on immigration but wise like elites on all other foreign policy matters?  This is the conclusion one if forced to draw if one accepts this explanation.]

JAMES GIMPEL:  …On these issues mass opinion and elite opinion seem quite congruent, to say nothing of many of the domestic issues not covered in the report that would be highlighted in other surveys of mass opinion.  So I’m not sure that the ignorance explanation is an especially good one.  There are sophisticated and informed arguments, after all, on both sides of the immigration debate.  It’s not as if being informed is tantamount to being for wide-open immigration policy. 

Finally, I conclude with a puzzle.  In reading the report, I had to ask myself in which party might the gap between elites and masses be most severe?  And in thinking about this issue, it occurred to me that it’s quite an irony that the Republicans, who tend to represent more middle and upper income voters, at least have a debate going within their party on the subject.  Okay.  There are people in the GOP who represent both sides of the immigration controversy, and it’s kind of an ironic thing that at least the Republicans have this debate, suggesting that the issue hasn’t been resolved within their ranks.  The Democrats, ostensibly—they’re the ones who represent the legions of low-skilled to no-skilled natives who are most economically threatened by high levels of immigration, including many African Americans and Latinos.  They don’t seem to have any debate at all raging within their ranks.  Again, quite an irony.  It would appear to me that the gap between mass and elite opinion would be much greater within the Democratic Party than within the Republican.

I will close with those comments and invite your questions. 

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  Well, thank you, Jim.  I think that was a really important perspective. 

I just want to point out both tables one and two actually have information on jobs, so Jim was actually correct to point to both, and in both cases the gap between elite opinion and public opinion on the issue of protecting American jobs and competition from other countries is very, very wide.  In some cases it’s as wide as it is on immigration.  In others, it is not. 

Let me exercise the chair’s prerogative and ask the first question of our panelists.  In table two, we specifically—there’s a question on illegal immigration.  Now, you would think that this is an issue where elites would at least indicate a lot of concern.  One could still favor lots of legal immigration perhaps, but say, well, but they think it’s a law enforcement issue, it’s a national security issue.  It’s a fairness issue, right?  Anybody who violates the law and makes a mockery of the law and if we tolerate that, it’s a slap in the face to all the people who do obey the law, all the legal immigrants.  So you would think there’d be a much higher degree of elite consensus that illegal immigration is a problem that we ought to try to fix.  But, in fact, the poll found that only 22 percent of elite thought that reducing illegal immigration should be an important goal whereas 70 percent of the American people think that reducing illegal immigration should be a goal.  I’m fascinated by this, because here you don’t just have an economic question, though that’s important, you have kind of a law and order question.  Where are the law and order elites on this?  Why is it that illegal immigration doesn’t really enter the radar of elites in the way, of course, that it does for the American people?

Just any thoughts on that?

SCOTT RASMUSSEN:  Well, I have a very simple thought.  I am fortunate to have a 13-year-old and 11-year-old boy, and they are constantly finding ways to do things that don’t quite have my permission, but give them enough wiggle room to do what they want anyhow.  And, yes, I think the elites would prefer that law and order be respected, especially since they are the ones making the laws, but I think they’re facing the situation where mass immigration is not something that’s going to become legal in any way, shape or form, so they’re going to look just like my 13-year-old for a way to get around it.  And if they can fudge the issue and if people have to slip in illegally and then they can say there’s nothing we can do about it, the issue just slides away, and I think that’s very much what it is.  They know that any change that could pass public muster will hurt them in some other ways.

ROY BECK:  It is still amazing to me.  I do understand the elites' economic interests.  It’s not just economic.  They gain -- you also gain power.  I think the religious leaders often have interests because they gain members, so they gain more influence -- various groups.  But, still, you'd think that 9/11 by showing that this attack on America happened in part because of the lack of control over the people coming and going, which is a part of illegal immigration, that they would be more concerned about that.  I mean in the teens, in the nineteen-teens, certainly the corporate elite of this country changed from being almost 100 percent pro-open borders, cheap labor to being about evenly divided because of concern about security that was coming from the radicals slipping into the immigration process.  That doesn’t seem to be happening right now and, you know, the economic costs of terrorism in this country are incredible.  It seems like a good business reason to be concerned, and yet, you know, we don’t see that.  And I should say that in mentioning the corporations, I’m reminded of another poll that the National Federation of Independent Businesses did of their membership when, as you know, the NFIB is a huge association of business owners, of primarily and small and medium sized business owners.  The polls showed they reject amnesties by a 3 to 1 margin, which, again, suggests the difference that business owners themselves are not elites; it’s just the elite of the business owners that are part of the opinion elite.  And so it could be, again, the difference between business owners, most business owners, and the people at the top and people who represent them in Washington just live in different worlds, and the same things can be said, I guess, of union members, religions, media, all of them down the line.  But I still have to say I can’t think of any satisfactory hypothesis for this lack of concern.

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  Okay.  I’d like to open it up for questions.  I guess I should throw some numbers out there as a demographer on this issue.  If anyone wants to know what the legal immigration is, we allow in for permanent residents in the United States, that’s green cards—people can eventually become citizens—about 1.1 million people a year.  That’s the most recent year.  And we think that the net growth—this is based on some research done by the Census Bureau and other groups—that we think that the net increase in the number of illegal aliens in the United States is about four to five hundred thousand a year.  So total immigration to the United States, that is, people coming and settling in the United States, is about 1.5 million people a year.  You can read more about these issues at our Web site,

With that, let me open it up for some questions.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  On the issue of why the security argument doesn’t have more of an impact on the elites, is it because the data would show that the elites come more from this liberal wing of the Democratic Party and that they look at America and our foreign policy differently?  Perhaps they see the problem of security risks can be dealt with not with immigration control, but changing our foreign policy.  If we were just nicer to the rest of the world, more generous, blah, blah, blah, that would solve the problem and we could keep our borders open and nobody would attack us.

SCOTT RASMUSSEN:  Well, certainly, the view that says if we were nicer to the rest of the world it would solve the problem may be part of the explanation.  Our polling data on what liberal Democrats think about these issues is among the general public, not among the elite.  I don’t have any data from this current survey in terms of how that would impact elite opinion.

I think another aspect of it is there is a sense of frustration.  If you are a politician or any sort of an elite opinion leader and you identify a problem, you want to have a solution that can work.  And one argument that I’ve heard repeatedly is there’s nothing we can really do.  And I think that’s an elite opinion, too, because the worst thing you can do is say we have a major problem in the country and I, who am looking for your votes, don’t know how to solve it. 

ROY BECK:  Let me ask the two of you who do work with polling.  Do you think, though, that the opinion elite that the Chicago Council Polls and has been polling us for about 30 years, do you think that it skews heavily liberal, or is not somewhat across the spectrum 

SCOTT RASMUSSEN:  Yeah, I don’t have any sense from their data, so I couldn’t answer that with confidence.  My guess is it doesn’t become—there may be a heavier proportion of liberal representation, but I think it’s much more of the populist flavor that you mentioned earlier.  I mean I think there are just some issues where views become significantly different, and, you know, to some degree if you’re used to moving pieces around big chest boards like playing Risk or something, I think that some of those issues become more important to you than the basic concerns.


QUESTION:  I recall in 1996 there was a Roper poll of 2,000 face-to-face interviews on the subject of immigration in general, and one of the things that I think I recall correctly is that they analyzed it by ethnic breakdown, and the Hispanics, at least in that poll—that was six years ago—were restrictionist overall in their measurements, not as restrictionist as white voters or non-Hispanic whites, and also not as restrictive as African Americans.  I also recall that in 1984 in 187, depending on whose data you believe, that Proposition 187 to cut off illegal immigrants’ access to welfare in California got between 30 and 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in California.  And I’ve seen enough data from enough polls to indicate that Republicans do best among Hispanics who feel the same way as other Americans on the issue of immigration than the ones that they attract as voters tend be ones that are assimilated, patriotic, share the same concerns that other Americans do.

So my question is this.  To what extent do you think that the Republican Party elites use this idea of Hispanic outreach in order to—you know, when you know that the newly arrived Hispanics tend to be overwhelmingly Democrat when they can become citizens and vote, that is truthfully—is real?  Or, to what extent is it really a fig leaf for their cover for their Wall Street interests and their big corporate interests who favor mass immigration, and so they use it to suppress the debate and as an excuse to favor things like amnesty and stuff?

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  Let me briefly answer it, and then I’ll let the rest of the panel.  I think the Republicans are sincere that they want to do better with minority voters.  I think their problem is that they are listening to other elites and not the American people.  There is no compelling evidence that Hispanics, for example, overwhelmingly favor an amnesty.  Now, obviously it’s a question of question wording, and so forth, in a survey, but clearly Hispanics have diverse views on immigration.  A very significant share would like less; a very significant share would like the law enforced.  But what is the case is that Hispanic elites in the United States are overwhelmingly in favor of high immigration and relatively little enforcement, and so that’s what I think the Republicans are listening to and which may be an enormous mistake.  If they want to get Hispanics, they really especially want to get sort of conservative to middle-of-the-road Hispanics, it’s not clear that embracing mass immigration is the way to do it.  In fact, the evidence is on the other side.  But, again, it’s hard to hear that because you have this elite-common person divide.  You have it in the general public; you have it among whites; you have it among blacks, and you especially have it among Hispanics where the diversity of views of Hispanics on the issue of immigration is in no way reflected in Hispanic leadership in Congress, in the major advocacy groups, and so forth, and I think that’s the central issue there.

SCOTT RASMUSSEN:  First of all, when I say that elite opinion differs from the public opinion, I tend to look towards the public as having more common sense.  I don’t necessarily jump to the conclusion that you did in that question by saying, therefore, the elites are using something as a fig leaf for an excuse.  I think they can very sincerely hold those beliefs and not have heard other views. 

I mean, I mentioned in the very beginning that I did work with term limits groups, and there are politicians today in states that have term limits that continue to believe they are unpopular with voters and that all they have to do is put it back on the ballot again and voters will change their mind.  And the reason they hear that is because they are talking to other term-limited legislators who don’t like the idea.  So the fact that an elite group has this view doesn’t necessarily mean they’re using it as an excuse.  I think it’s a sincere perspective. 

I also think that when we focus on an issue like immigration in a forum like this, we’re talking about it as the driving issue of something, and most of the people we’re talking about in a political setting are using it as a—are viewing it as a secondary issue that influences something else that they are involved with, and so they don’t have that same focus.  I continue to believe that immigration is really many issues, not one issue.  It doesn’t have the driving force of national security in the post 9/11 world, that everything can be associated with it, and I think that when immigration policies are pushed at a grand level, it has a little bit of danger becoming like Hillary’s health care plan—just too much that everybody can pick something apart about it, whereas there are narrower programs, there are narrower reforms that can perhaps be won to address specific aspects. And the way you do that is, again, you tie into other issues that are more on the radar screen of the opinion elites.


JAMES GIMPEL:  I would say that I think the Republicans have been on a very steep learning curve with respect to Hispanic outreach.  I think that one of the things they’ve learned is that’s not really even necessary to talk about immigration or immigration related policy to win Hispanic votes.  I think that Hispanic voting for Republicans was up in spite of the lower turnout of a typical mid-term election.  But what’s garnered that Latino support has been very aggressive and affective Spanish language outreach.  And I think what the GOP is learning at the RNC and the White House and elsewhere is that if you appeal to Hispanics on the basis of their cultural and linguistic preferences, that seems to work without even touching a lot of the policy issues that are out there.  And so I mean I think, you know, Spanish language outreach has been very effective, much more effective than I thought it would have been.  I know that the GOP press is up in a lot of Spanish language newspapers and other cultural outlets, Spanish language media.  But again, that seems to be running along lines of an appeal to the cultural and linguistic preferences of Latinos and less of an emphasis on sort of substantive policy stands or issues.

ROY BECK:  I’d like to flip this around and look at the Democrats for a second, a comment that Scott made a little earlier about some of the danger to the Republican Party if this breaks into major public warfare.  This is an issue of great opportunity for the Democratic Party.  It seems to me that this polling suggests one of the ways that the Democrats can keep—might be able to keep the Republicans from having this kind of total control for the next decade or so, and the way of looking at I believe is, again, as the populist issue, the Democrats have the opportunity to appeal to moderates, independents, union members, all of whom are problems for them right now in terms of moving over in too high levels over to the Republican Party.  I mean these are the people that are in play. And as the CIS/Zogby poll showed a year ago, moderates, independents, union members, are people who overwhelmingly are concerned about illegal immigration and want something done about this.  If the Democrats are to have a play for majority status, they’ve got to play among these groups, and the Democratic position right now, as was mentioned, is unambiguous.  It’s almost unanimous in terms of moving toward higher immigration, more open borders, going against the interests of these people of all races and ethnicities that are in those groups.

Last spring, I believe Congressman Gephardt, for example, was one of the Democratic leaders that said that if the Democrats would have a chance to hold on to power in Congress they have to be able to succeed in suburban, small city and rural districts.  Immigration is just one of those kinds of issues that kills -- that can really kill the Democrats’ opportunities if the Democrats are seen as representing just narrow special interests and not having a concern for the broad public good. 

One of the reasons this works so well for Democrats is that they not only can appeal to these swing voters that they need so badly, but it actually appeals to their base, because it appeals to their environmental base because immigration is the overwhelming cause of population growth and thus a chief cause, perhaps the number one cause, of sprawl, congestion, overcrowded schools in this country, loss of natural habitat, farmland.  It also appeals to the worker, the pro-worker side, because immigration is one of the key factors—high immigration—one of the key factors in depression, wage depression, especially in lower-skilled occupations.  At the same time, the people who benefit disproportionately from lower immigration are minorities—Hispanics, blacks, Native Americans—and because they are disproportionately in the occupations that are hurt the most by high immigration.  If there were some kind of magic bullet for Democrats, this would be one, and I think it’s one of the reasons what we did see this year for the first time since 1996 a beginning corps of Democrats who were stepping forward, that there were a half dozen that stepped forward taking leadership on calling for the Barbara Jordan recommendations, the Barbara Jordan Commission recommendations for reducing immigration, chain migration, the lottery, and also enforcing laws against illegal immigration.

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  Okay.  I think we can take maybe one or two more questions.  Go ahead here. 

QUESTION:  Immigration organization supporters propose that legalizing lots of these immigrants would benefit national security.  They say instead of not knowing how many they are and where they are, they would be able to get all the information.  What do you think about that?

STEVEN CAMAROTA: Well, it’s not necessarily exactly an issue.  I don’t think the public is aware of these things.  One of the big concerns, as you probably know, in 1986 we had another large amnesty.  One of the people that we amnestied was named Mahmoud abu Halima.  He was one of the leaders of the terrorist attack on the Trade Center in January of 1993.  It was the amnesty that allowed him—he was an illegal alien in the United States; he got an amnesty as a seasonal agricultural worker.  He then travels abroad, receives the terrorist training and the money that he needs, he brings it back to the United States and he uses that to help blow up the Trade Center in 1993.  His brother, Mohammed, was also an amnesty beneficiary.  So in the past when we’ve had amnesties, they’ve certainly facilitated terrorism. 

Have they helped to hinder it?  Well, another person who participated in the ’93 attack on the Trade Center, Mohammed Salaam, the guy who rented the truck, I believe, in that attack, he applied for the same amnesty, but he didn’t get it, but because the United States has no mechanism for making people who are denied the amnesty back then—and we still have the same problem now—go home, he just continued to live in the United States as an illegal alien and ultimately helped to take part in the ’93 attack on the Trade Center as well.

So if the past is our guide, the past amnesty clearly facilitated terrorism, and it certainly didn’t hinder it, and my guess is if that we had another amnesty, the same problem would exist even more so, because the INS is even more overwhelmed now—four million back log.  In addition to that, it can’t even keep pace with what it’s being asked to do in terms of new green cards, change of status, citizenship.  So it’s already overwhelmed.  It has a huge backlog.  At the same time, we’re asking it to take on new roles in the war on terrorism, and now we’re trying to fundamentally restructure it.  If were to then also ask it to process four or five or eight million new green card applications or guest worker green card applications for the illegal aliens in the United States, one would suspect that they just couldn’t do it, they don’t have the institutional capacity.   

Remember, every one of these people would have to have a background check, they’d have to be fingerprinted.  There just simply isn’t the capability to do a good job with that.  So I think, unfortunately, we’d very much see a repeat of what happened in 1986 with Mahmoud Abu Halima and his brother and Mohammed Salaam.  And so I think that things could be made a lot worse by an amnesty.

SCOTT RASMUSSEN:  I think, though, your question is a perfect example of the political situation that this issue is in.  If the issue is framed as a way to improve national security, credibly framed by a political leader, no matter which side of the amnesty issue he came on, if any leader could propose a policy that is perceived by the public to improve national security, that will go forward among the public, regardless of whether it leads to more or less legal or illegal immigration.  So the national security issue really drives the debate.  And the challenge for a political leader on an issue like immigration right now is to say, okay, I need to frame my position in a way that convinces people that national security will be enhanced by what I am saying.  And if either side of the immigration debate can win that argument on national security, they’ll win their debate on the immigration point. 

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  You had another question.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  A political question.  One of your findings notices—makes note of the fact that the president’s rating of alien handling immigration is relatively low, in fact, I think the lowest of a variety of foreign policy issues.  And the report attributes that through the general amnesty issue and the fact that until September 11th, U.S. and Mexico were in active negotiations on it.  But since these questions were asked this summer, could it also be interpreted that this is much more a reaction against September 11th and the fact that 19 hijackers got in and stayed and over-stayed, and that’s what people are focusing on more than the Mexico issue?

ROY BECK:  But the question is, why are they holding Bush responsible?  I mean, that would suggest that they're holding Bush responsible just for 9/11.  There doesn’t seem to be much in terms of the way that people are voting and the way they responded this fall to suggest that the public is angry at him for 9/11 or for his handling of 9/11.  The fact that there is such a difference—and let me give those figures.  Thank you for pointing that out.  Among 13 foreign policy arenas that they asked the public about what they thought of the president’s performance, overall, only 13 percent of the public rated his foreign policy performance as poor.  Only 13 percent.  But on the immigration issue, they rated the president 41 percent poor.  Forty-one percent rated him poor.  Nothing else was even close to that kind of poor rating.  So it does suggest—it certainly suggests that the public has an image of the president, of his policy, and given how the public feels that we see on these charts, although the polling does not tell us for sure why they rate him so poorly, I think it’s a reasonable guess that the public's rating him poorly because they think that he takes a position different from their own, that is that he is in favor—instead of in favoring lower immigration and tighter illegal immigration, they see him as advocating other.  And the main role, the main public persona of the president on immigration has been pushing not just for the Mexican amnesty of a year earlier, but also this year repeatedly pushing for the 245(i) amnesty.  And that’s the one thing that he's just constantly come out in public.

So that’s my interpretation of that and I think it’s a reasonable one, although as I say it’s not exactly clear in the polling.  It’s interesting, though, that when it came time to really go out for votes this fall, the president, as far as I know, did not make one mention of his immigration policies this fall as he was being very successful campaigning for candidates.  It’s also interesting that, although Gephardt was pretty prominent for about a week when he went down to Miami and made his push for the big amnesty, I’m also not aware of any Democratic ads in any congressional or Senate districts that pushed Gephardt’s amnesty or the Democratic congressional leadership's push for amnesty.  I think that the politicians are very well aware of this kind of polling.  They’ve got their own polling that shows this.  They know that the public does not like this, and although they may -- they also probably have a strong feeling that it’s not salient enough to grab them at any time, it’s definitely not a way to make hay with the public.  And I think this -- if somebody is pushing for more open borders, it’s very important that they work through the elites and quietly.  If people want more restrictive borders, public attention is the most important thing.  And so it’s definitely a situation where what happens in the media, if it’s quiet, it’s the elites who are winning.  If it’s being talked about, the public is winning. 

And if I could just segue into one other point I wanted to make and that is how good of an issue it can be for a candidate.  I think the most obvious response to suggesting this is not particularly a great issue for a candidate, even though there’s this great untapped issue, is to bring up Pat Buchanan and look at his performance in the last election.  And I think the answer to that is that there’s almost no issue that can pull a third party candidate that is not a viable candidate into first place.  There’s no single issue that you can tap in and pull you out of it.  Very exceptional circumstances like with Ross Perot in which he did tap into a populist sentiment and had tons of money behind him.  But rarely can a single issue -- can you tap into an issue by itself.  However, I think what you see here is that if you have a major party candidate in a competitive district or state, this is an issue that can really move a person forward. 

Why don’t more candidates take advantage of it?  Because of fear of the elites, and also mostly candidates, they’re surrounded by elites.  And so it’s like, okay, the public may be with me, but what will the college presidents and the religious leaders and the media, how will they slam me? And I think fear of the elites is one of the reasons why this great untapped issue remains greatly untapped.

STEVEN CAMAROTA: Any other questions?  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Following on Mr. Beck’s comments, could this give some reasons to rise of citizen groups, especially along the borders since they are too much leaderless on this issue, no one will speak for them.  So it’s gotten, especially for the border areas, that the citizens themselves have literally decided to take the matter into their own hands?

STEVEN CAMAROTA:  Yeah, I think that’s a real danger here.  Normally, public dissatisfaction on any issue is channeled at least in a productive way or in a way that’s legitimate politically towards “Let’s change policy; let’s try to see where we can make some changes.”  Unfortunately, because the elites don’t care at all about even illegal immigration or care very little about it, that leadership is lacking, and that may well make regular folks take matters into their own hands, which you can understand why they would do, but it also has a lot of negative consequences, and so it’s not really what the ideal solution is—to patrol the border with Border Patrol, not with people from southern Arizona.  But that is the kind of radicalization of the public you get when the elites ignore an issue.  And I think on immigration the elites are ignoring the issue, and you could well see significant radicalization, and that’s a real problem, and I think it’s a legitimate problem.

Does anyone else want to answer?

Okay.  Well, obviously with 1.5 million legal and illegal immigrants now settling in the United States each year, immigration will continue to be a significant issue.  If you’d like to read more about this topic, you can always visit the Center for Immigration Studies’ Web site,  Also, Mr. Beck’s organization,, has a lot of information.  And, of course, if you’d like to read more about the opinions and perspectives of Scott Rasmussen, you can visit his site which is scott—that’s two T’s, Scottpolls, all one word, 

I’d like to thank you all for attending this event.