A new CNN poll asserts that 90 percent of Americans, and a whopping 84 percent of Trump supporters support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. People tend to tell strangers what they think they want to hear over the phone, and in our current politically correct climate, where support for deportations and other types of immigration enforcement has become synonymous with racism, internet polling would be a lot more accurate for immigration surveys.
The survey also polled "adults" rather than registered voters, so we'll never know how many non-citizens were polled. And only 25 percent of poll respondents were Republicans, so it's tempting to dismiss this poll as complete nonsense. But I'm certain that the open borders crowd will be using this poll as a talking point (90 percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship!) for years to come, so it's worth understanding how these polls are rigged to produce the desired responses.
When asking Americans immigration-related questions, pollsters often frame the question to produce the desired (liberal) result, and/or offer only two equally unappealing choices (deport everyone or no one). For example, look how question 24 of this survey (the one that is sure to be the headline grabber) is framed:
Now, thinking about how the U.S. government should treat illegal immigrants who have been in this country for a number of years, hold a job, speak English and are willing to pay any back taxes that they owe.
Would you favor or oppose a bill that allowed those immigrants to stay in this country rather than being deported and eventually allow them to apply for U.S. citizenship?
Ninety percent of respondents, including 84 percent of Trump supporters and 86 percent of those who say they "lean Republican", favored this form of amnesty. But think about how silly this question is. First, given how many illegal immigrants get paid in cash to work in temporary and day labor type jobs — babysitting, landscaping, house cleaning, and so on, who is going to verify if someone "has a job" and how will we define what a "job" is? Would a guy who rakes leaves, shovels snow, and mows lawns for people, advertising his services on Craigslist, count as having a "job"? What about part-time nannies, pizza delivery people, and the legions of men who try to pick up day labor in the parking lots of Home Depot stores, or near construction sites or farms?
Then you have this dubious proposition of only giving amnesty to those who "speak English". Again, who is going to determine English language proficiency and how high would the bar be? If someone fails the test, are they deported or told to study harder?
The final stipulation — willingness to pay back taxes — is perhaps the biggest red herring. The word "willing" is key here. Why on earth would we ask people if they were "willing" to pay back taxes? Who would say, "No, I'd rather be deported." (The "back taxes" issue is a red herring in any case; see here and here.)
We often hear amnesty advocates pontificating about how illegal immigrants could pay back taxes under an amnesty deal, but it makes no sense for a couple of reasons. First, these same people are always telling us how much taxes illegal immigrants pay. So if that's a fact, why are we even talking about back taxes? Second, there's no way to accurately determine how much illegal immigrants owe, and so any such scheme would have to be on an honor system, whereby people will dramatically undercount their bill. A much better plan than asking illegal immigrants to pay back taxes would be to estimate how much the average illegal immigrant costs the taxpayer, factoring in education for their children, health care, and any type of welfare benefits they receive, and charge all of them the same price.
The point here is that this is not a serious, practical question. But that doesn't matter. This question is there to produce this desired headline in the press, "90 percent of Americans support path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants", or something similar. Meanwhile, other questions in the poll that indicate that Americans are concerned about illegal immigration will be ignored. For example, question 23a in this poll asks respondents what concerns them more: the possibility that deportation efforts will go too far, deporting people who haven't committed serious crimes, or the prospect that deportation efforts won't go far enough, leaving dangerous criminals here in the United States.
Given the media's hysterical response to the Trump administration's efforts to step up deportations (Kristallnacht! Auschwitz!), and the fact that 75 percent of survey respondents are not Republicans, the fact that 40 percent responded that they feared the Trump administration's deportation efforts won't go far enough is quite remarkable.
Pro-immigration advocates have essentially tried to bully and intimidate Americans into supporting mass immigration and given the toxic nature of the debate, we don't have a great handle on how Americans really feel about immigration and what should or shouldn't be done. But what if Americans were asked immigration questions, framed from a conservative viewpoint rather than a liberal one?
The point of the quiz below isn't to poll readers in the same way CNN, Gallup, or Pew would. It is to challenge assumptions, to present context, and to, hopefully, get people thinking about immigration problems and solutions that aren't often part of the debate. And yes, the truth is that you can control polling results in the way you frame the questions.
Take this quiz and see where you stand.
- The U.S. makes up about 4.4 percent of the world's estimated population of 7.4 billion. Should the 95.6 percent of the planet's population that lives outside the United States have the legal right to live in the United States?
- Does a sovereign nation have the right to determine who can or cannot live within its borders or must nations simply accommodate anyone who turns up?
- Yes, nations can decide.
- No, they must accommodate everyone.
- At a time when the U.S. labor force participation rate hovered around 62 percent, the lowest it has been since 1977, with nearly 100 million adults not working or looking for work, an estimated 3.1 million immigrants, legal and illegal, moved to the United States in 2014 and 2015. Is this the right level of immigration for the U.S. at this time?
- Yes, it's about right.
- No, 1.5 million immigrants per year is too much.
- No, 1.5 million immigrants per year is not enough.
- The president issued an executive order implementing a 90-day travel ban for all citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries that had earlier been flagged as "countries of concern" by the Obama Administration, which implemented additional vetting steps for citizens of these countries in January and February 2016. The Trump administration says that it needs this time in order to review and potentially revise vetting procedures in order to protect Americans from terror threats. How do you feel about the ban?
- The government has a right to do this, and I agree that a review of vetting procedures is necessary.
- The government has a right to do this, but I think it's unnecessary and discriminates against Muslims.
- I agree with the courts who have ruled against the order; the government has no right to violate the due process rights of travelers in foreign countries and the American citizens and institutions that want them to come here.
- According to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, wage growth has been stagnant for middle-wage workers since 1979 and has declined by 5 percent for low-wage workers. In 1970, there were 9.6 million immigrants living in the United States, representing 4.7 percent of the population. There are now about 43 million, representing 13.5 percent of the population, the largest share of foreign-born residents since 1911. Is there a connection between wage stagnation and rising migration?
- No connection whatsoever.
- It is one of several factors contributing to wage stagnation.
- Immigration is the primary factor contributing to wage stagnation.
- Do you support opening up our land borders with Mexico and Canada and removing all visa restrictions, essentially creating a borderless state?
- Hell no, in fact let's build the wall along the Mexican border.
- What impact do you think an open border would have on the environment in cities like Los Angeles, Houston, and Phoenix, which already have problematic traffic, air quality, and water issues?
- None whatsoever.
- Manageable impact.
- Impact on our environment would be detrimental.
- Of the 11-12 million migrants who are currently living in the United States illegally, who should be allowed to stay?
- None, all must go.
- All should be allowed to stay, save for convicted felons and suspected terrorists.
- Those with jobs and/or U.S. citizen children should be allowed to stay.
- Only those who have lived here for many years and can prove they have made extraordinary contributions to their community can stay.
- Once immigrants naturalize as U.S citizens, they have a legal right to petition for fiancés, spouses, parents, children, and siblings to join them in the United States. Should they have a right to this so-called chain migration, which represented 64 percent of all migration in 2014?
- They should only be able to petition for spouses and children.
- The United States and Canada are the only two developed countries with birthright citizenship. (Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, and France have repealed birthright citizenship; other rich nations like Germany, Japan, Norway, and Switzerland have never had it.) Should we continue birthright citizenship, regardless of circumstance?
- Yes, every child born here should be a U.S. citizen.
- No, children should only be given citizenship if their parents are legal permanent residents (green-card holders) or U.S. citizens.
- No, children should only qualify if the parents can prove they have lived in the United States for at least a year (no birthright citizenship for visiting tourists).
- a-0, b-10
- a-10, b-0
- a-5, b-10, c-0
- a-10, b-5, c-0
- a-0, b-5, c-10
- a-5, b-10, c-0
- a-0, b-5, c-10
- a-10, b-0, c-3, d-7
- a-10, b-0, c-5
- a-0, b-10, c-5
100 points: Sounds like you're on board with the Trump agenda and might even like it to be a bit more ambitious on the enforcement side.
70-99 points: You're mostly concerned about the impact of immigration, but you're also worried that if we get too strict, it might be hard to find authentic Pad Thai or tacos al-pastor.
40-69 points: You probably oppose building a wall and deportations because they sound harsh, and you don't want people to think you're a bigot. But once you think about the consequences of open borders, you get nervous.
0-39 points: Open borders suit you just fine. You fit right in with immigration lawyers, tech CEOs, J.K. Rowling, and academics.