…you end up with foam-flecked insanity and spear-carrying nativists fueled by the rantings of Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo.

Witness the current immigration hysteria about immigration from Latin American. Lou Dobbs has been lauded as a hero of the working class and even inspired talk among the crowd he plays to about a presidential run, and “immigration” consistently polls near the top of voters concerns. Funny thing is, when polls are conducted using neutral language, it turns out that voters are, as a whole, are not only pretty damned clueless about the issue, they have no idea what their candidate’s actual position even is.

The Center for Immigration Studies commissioned Pulse Opinion Research to conduct a poll of voters who had either voted in a primary or attended a caucus. The sample size was 1,276 , and the polling was conducted over March 12 and 13 (full .pdf here).

Among the findings:



  • Only 34 percent of McCain voters, 42 percent of Clinton voters, and 52 percent of Obama voters correctly identified their candidate as favoring eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements.


  • Of McCain voters, 35 percent mistakenly thought he favored enforcement that would cause illegals to return home, another 10 percent thought he wanted mass deportations, and 21 percent didn’t know his position.


  • Voters often held different positions from the candidate they supported. Only 31 percent of McCain voters had the same immigration position as he does. For Clinton voters, 45 percent shared her position; 61 percent of Obama voters shared his position.


  • This lack of knowledge, coupled with disagreements with their candidates’ positions, makes it very difficult to draw any conclusions about the fact that all three remaining candidates favor legalization for illegal immigrants.


  • Whoever wins the presidency will face significant opposition to giving eventual citizenship to illegal immigrants. Just 25 percent of Republican and 50 percent of Democratic primary/caucus voters said they would support such an effort.


  • Pro-enforcement voters have a greater intensity of views than supporters of legalization. Among Republicans, almost nine out ten who favored causing illegals to return home said they strongly supported that view; on the other hand, fewer than half of Republicans who backed legalization strongly supported that view.


  • This greater intensity also exists among Democrats. Of Democrats who favored causing illegals to return home, more than seven out of ten strongly supported that view; on the other hand, fewer than six out of ten who favored legalization strongly supported that view.


Now, I don’t have a dog in the immigration fight. Even when I was working, my job wasn’t in jeopardy. Scientists don’t sneak across the border and displace American bench techs. But I find the disconnect between voters and reality more than a little disconcerting.

It is time to inject some reality and common sense into the debate.  I just wish I knew how to do that.