Stanley Renshon's blog

The Public Religion Research Institute Strikes Again: The "Unaccompanied Children" Poll, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, October 16, 2014

Faulty questions and untenable options are not the only means by which uninformative immigration poll results can be produced.

Sometimes polls don't have to resort to survey subterfuge; instead, results can be reported in a way that gives an entirely wrong and misleading impression. In doing so, they can then count on others to report what they have announced, confident that most readers will not bother to read, or think through, the actual results. Read more...

Recent Immigration Polls: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, October 14, 2014

Bad immigration polls, like the one published by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Brookings Institution that I analyzed the other day, fail because they ask narrow, "either/or", and loaded questions for a purpose: to get the result they support. Read more...

Recent Immigration Polls: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, October 8, 2014

Divining the views of the public on immigration is an exceedingly difficult task. There are always the technical questions about survey methods that need to be taken into account. Are the samples large enough? Representative enough? Are they Internet-only survey instruments or are they conducted by interviewers or are they mechanical calls?

These "technical" questions influence the reliability of the numbers we read and thus our confidence in the results. But these matters are only the proverbial tip of a very large iceberg whose major consequences are hidden in plain sight. Read more...

Immigration Lame-Duck Fantasies Redux, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, October 3, 2014

The Obama administration is threatening the equivalent of immigration fire and brimstone if Republicans don't make a lame-duck session deal. Yet their idea of a deal seems to be: Give us what we want in an immigration bill or we'll do it ourselves by executive action.

It's a maximalist position that reflects no real interest in accommodation. And at this stage the administration clearly feels there doesn't have to be any. Read more...

Immigration Lame-Duck Fantasies Redux, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, October 2, 2014

It's lame-duck immigration amnesty fantasy time at the White House again, though this year's version starts with a threat. The threat came from Vice President Joe Biden who, "challenged Republicans to 'see the Lord' or the 'lightning' in regard to immigration reform during a speech he made at a reception for Hispanic Heritage month." Read more...

Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 5

By Stanley Renshon, September 30, 2014

The president's forthcoming executive amnesty and enforcement actions are likely to be an immigration Rubicon for the Republican Party — for its supporters, its elected officials, and its 2016 presidential candidates.

Let me start with Republican supporters and their elected officials. A recent Pew poll tells all in its title: "Neither Party Gets Good Marks from Its Base for Handling Illegal Immigration". According to the poll, 56 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners feel that the Republican Party is not doing a good job on illegal immigration. Read more...

Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 4

By Stanley Renshon, September 27, 2014

In taking his immigration executive actions – especially if, as expected, they are expansive – the president will have thrown down a monumental, even radical, challenge to the American tradition of governance as well as to the American public and, not incidentally, to the Republican Party.

He and his allies can be expected justify his actions by all the means at his disposal, and they will be considerable. They are, however, by no means insurmountable. Read more...

Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 3

By Stanley Renshon, September 25, 2014

The Obama administration will field a formidable array of political resources to rationalize and legitimize the president's forthcoming executive immigration amnesty. Those who oppose his executive order will have nowhere near the president's resources and thus will begin with a decided disadvantage.

In that sense it will be round two of another immigration "David vs. Goliath" fight, the first one having been won by House Republican Davids who managed to stop the "comprehensive reform" juggernaut that reached its culmination with the passage of the massive 2013 Senate Democratic immigration legislation.

That fight was fought on different grounds than the executive actions fight will be fought. Broadly speaking, the difference will be a fight that was won by doing nothing versus a fight that can only be won by doing something. Read more...

Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, September 23, 2014

Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 2
Responding to the President's Immigration Fiat, Pt. 3

The president is very likely to take executive action "before the end of the holiday season" that grants administrative amnesty to large groups of illegal aliens and may contain other provisions that reward his corporate and political supporters. The administration has not disclosed the exact provisions and it is likely that at this stage there are several drafts, each with somewhat different elements. It's likely that the final version will be dependent in part on the midterm election results as well as domestic and foreign circumstances.

However extensive the provisions are, responding to the president's immigration legislation-by-executive-order will not be easy. Read more...

The Executive Immigration Order That Breaks the Obama Presidency? Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, September 19, 2014

When a president's major policy initiative, like President Obama's healthcare initiative, never gains public support, he is in trouble. When, in addition, the public no longer supports many of the president's other major domestic or foreign policies, the trouble is far more serious. And when both of the preceding are true and the public views the president as "weak", ineffective", or "dishonest", it is appropriate to use the word "collapse" to describe that presidency.

That is the current state of the Obama presidency. Read more...

The Executive Immigration Order That Breaks the Obama Presidency?

By Stanley Renshon, September 12, 2014

"The straw that broke the camel's back". Definition: "The last little burden or problem that causes everything to collapse."

There have been so many avoidable domestic and international missteps in the Obama presidency that is it is hard to single out one and say: That did him in!

There is, at the core, the most profound mismatch between the president's ambitions and the preferences of ordinary Americans. They want reform; he wants transformation. Read more...

President Obama's Self-Imposed Immigration Dilemmas, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, September 11, 2014

The truth of presidential intelligence is that, ultimately, smart is what smart does, not what smart could do but doesn't. Calling attention to your intelligence by using such self-congratulatory terms as "smart diplomacy" to describe your policies does not make them so. Nor does the admonition "don't do stupid stuff" make you immune from doing just that. Read more...

President Obama's Self-Imposed Immigration Dilemmas, Pt. 1

By Stanley Renshon, September 10, 2014

It is an article of faith and certainty among liberals that the Barack Obama is "the smartest guy ever to become president." Less well know is that this view, "that Obama is one of our smartest presidents," has also found a foothold among some thoughtful informed scholars on the right, like Max Boot.

There is no doubt that the President Obama is smart in the conventional understanding of that term. He is able to engage the factual and conceptual complexities of the issues that the country faces. He is able to grasp the alternative formulations of a problem and their implications. And, he can as well, be an articulate spokesman for the policies he prefers.

Regrettably, while being "smart" is an important and useful attribute for any president, it is not the same as being effective, successful, or having good judgment. Read more...

Another Case of Immigration Self-Sabotage by "the Smartest Guy Ever to Become President"?

By Stanley Renshon, September 9, 2014

The president's decision to delay his potentially (and most likely) sweeping executive immigration action until after the November elections must seem quite clever, as well as necessary, for the White House. After all, a sweeping immigration executive action would doubtlessly embroil the country in a heated debate about its legitimacy and the president's domestic leadership strategies just before Americans are set to go to the polls with the Democrats' Senate majority in peril.

Why take the chance? Read more...

President Obama's Thoroughly Tawdry Executive Action Delay on Immigration

By Stanley Renshon, September 8, 2014

Well, its official.

Cueing up speculation, anticipation, and expectation, the president announced to reporters at the end of his recent NATO summit that he had received recommendations on his immigration executive order from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice and that, "I suspect that on my flight back, this'll be part of my reading, taking a look at some of the specifics that we've looked at. And I'll be making an announcement soon."

That followed a June 30 Rose Garden appearance in which the president vowed "to issue broad directives to overhaul the immigration system soon after summer's end."

No he won't. Read more...

A Gratuitous Insult from the Mexican President

By Stanley Renshon, September 2, 2014

Ordinarily when a foreign leader visits the United States you can expect platitudes, not insults. Yet insults are what Americans got when Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto recently visited California.

The young (48) president, with what one biography touts as "movie-star good looks", was on his first state visit to the United States since being sworn in as president of Mexico two years ago. His first and only stop was described, with no irony intended, as the "immigrant-friendly [state of] California", where he held meetings with the state's Democratic governor, Jerry Brown. Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views: Future Immigration Levels, Pt. 4

By Stanley Renshon, August 29, 2014

Trying to answer the question: What would Americans think about future of levels of immigration if they were given different kinds of information, researchers conducted an experiment. They gave a portion of their larger survey samples (1) no new information — that was the control condition; (2) information about the estimates of current numbers of both legal immigrants and illegal immigrants; and (3) these estimates of legal immigrants and illegal migrants coupled with the information that about 40 percent of both groups living in America were from Spanish-speaking backgrounds. Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views-Future Immigration Levels, Pt. 3

By Stanley Renshon, August 25, 2014

Trying to ascertain Americans' preferences for future immigration levels when they were given information that might stimulate them to feel threatened or xenophobic, researchers asked three versions on the question future levels question (p.16): Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views: Future Immigration Levels, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, August 22, 2014

Americans have consistently said that they want immigration levels to "remain the same" or be decreased. Many so-called immigration "reformers" have simply ignored them.

As a result, one of the most egregious elements of the Senate's 2013 bill was that it would have enormously increased the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States. Just how many new legal immigrants would have been allowed in is a matter of debate, but by any fair look, the numbers would be substantial — at least double and most likely more. Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration View: Future Immigration Levels

By Stanley Renshon, August 20, 2014

In the last few entries, we have been exploring the fact that ordinary Americans hold basic, bedrock views on several subjects that that are cornerstones of the immigration debate – their views on the impact of large-scale immigration, as reflected in the numbers of the foreign-born in the population, and their views on illegal immigration.

The vehicle of our examination has been a large, sophisticated immigration survey, with an experiment design component embedded within it (for the experimental parts, different groups within the larger sample are given different question and the results compared), conducted by two very reputable political scientists. Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views: How Many is Too Much?

By Stanley Renshon, August 19, 2014

Researchers asking if providing "accurate" information about the percentage of foreign-born persons and illegal immigrants in the population of the United States would lead survey respondents to feel less of a "threat" from, and be more welcoming to, ethnic "others" (immigrants), were surprised to find accurate numbers (i.e., the estimates that researchers provided) didn't make much difference (p. 15). Americans were not happy with the figures, even when they were given the "correct" (i.e. estimated) numbers.

The researchers wondered why and speculated as follows (p. 15): Read more...

The Bedrock of Ordinary Americans' Immigration Views

By Stanley Renshon, August 15, 2014

Americans do have some bedrock views on immigration, but how legitimate are they given the lack of specific information that ordinarily accompanies them?

The criticism of ordinary Americans' lack of specific information about immigration and other public matters often masks a conceit and several false premises. It also provides an opening to manipulate the public that many advocates and pundits feel no qualms about taking advantage of if it suits their policy preferences, for example by arguing that legalizing illegal immigrants will require them to pay their back taxes when that is patently untrue and misleading. Read more...

Illegal Migrants: A Silent Invasion No More, Pt. 2

By Stanley Renshon, August 14, 2014

The hidden tsunami of new immigrants, both legal and illegal, have been operating under the public's attention radar for many decades. In part this reflects the fact that immigration is not, ordinarily, a high-attention issue for most Americans. As a result, ordinary Americans don't have a great deal of factual information about the substantive foundations of the many complex elements that make up immigration policy. Read more...

Illegal Migrants: A Silent Invasion No More

By Stanley Renshon, August 7, 2014

According to Gallup, immigration has ranked near the bottom of Americans' concerns for many years. No more.

In 1994, the number of Americans who said immigration was "America's biggest problem" reached a highpoint of 2 percent. In 1996, the highpoint was 6 percent. In 1997, it was 4 percent. In 1998, it was 2 percent. In 1999 it was 1 percent. In 2000 it was 2 percent, and in 2001 it was 3 percent.

Fast forward to now, the summer of 2014 and Gallup reports, "With thousands of undocumented immigrant minors crossing the nation's southern border in recent months, the percentage of Americans citing immigration as the top problem has surged to 17 percent this month, up from 5 percent in June, and the highest seen since 2006." Read more...

Territorial Integrity, the Rule of Law, and Immigration Enforcement

By Stanley Renshon, July 30, 2014

Americans are accustomed to taking the territorial integrity of their country for granted. They do not sit directly astride a former empire that wants to regain its former glory and territory. The United States is not surrounded by countries that wish to destroy us. Nor are our territorial boundaries subject to international dispute, debate, or forceful efforts to change them. Read more...

Three Core Presidential Responsibilities: Territorial, Cultural, and Governing Integrity

By Stanley Renshon, July 29, 2014

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion.

— United States Constitution, Article 4, Section 4

In the push to respond to the substantial pressures of public expectations and, in some cases, their own enormous ambitions, some presidents have lost sight of three of their core responsibilities: the integrity of the country's established boundaries, the integrity of the cultural premises on which the country was founded and developed, and the responsibility of governing integrity that comes with the grant of public and political power. Read more...

The President's Dereliction of His Basic Governing Responsibilities

By Stanley Renshon, July 28, 2014

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: — "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

— United States Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8 Read more...

The Border Surge Is Much More than a Humanitarian Issue

By Stanley Renshon, July 22, 2014

The president's framing of the unprecedented surge of illegal aliens turning themselves into border officials in the expectation of being allowed to stay in the United States, as an "urgent humanitarian situation", is only partially correct. The phase is designed to misdirect public attention away from the more damming truths of the surge; it is equally, if not more so, a crisis of enforcement, governing, and the president's responsibility carry out his oath of office. It is an ethical issue for the public as well as the president.

None of these considerations are captured or even suggested by the administration's preferred phasing. Nor are they meant to do so. Read more...

The Damaging Civic Consequences of Illegal Migration, Pt. 4: Rhetorical Slights of Hand

By Stanley Renshon, July 18, 2014

American politics, and immigration debates are certainly no exception, has become riddled with "narratives", "framing", and "optics" designed to convey an impression that doesn't really exist — at least in the way it is presented.

A narrative is the construction of a set of "facts", specifically designed to advance the interests of those who construct it. Or as a Democratic political operative put it recently to journalist Ron Fournier of the National Journal, "Every political cause has a narrative. And every narrative has a plot." Read more...