Politico and George Washington University Spread Push Poll on Amnesty

By Jon Feere, December 12, 2012

As reported by CNN, a new Politico-George Washington University Battleground survey "indicates a majority of American voters say they support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants". A closer analysis of the poll, however, indicates that the results should not be interpreted as a mandate for amnesty. Detailed responses to the poll are available online.

The first question asked by the pollsters was: "May I please speak with the youngest (male/female) in the household who is registered to vote?" It is unclear why the pollster wanted to speak to younger people, but it may suggest an interest in filling the survey with respondents who are more likely to support liberal social policies. (Responses to the age question later in the survey suggest that the pollsters did not wind up with only the youth vote.) As for political leanings, 35 percent of respondents vote "straight/mostly republican", while 40 percent of respondents vote "straight/mostly democrat".

The first immigration question is as follows:

Thinking now about immigration reform…

As you may have heard, next year Congress may consider laws to reform our immigration system. Thinking about these reforms…

Would you support or oppose an immigration reform proposal that allows illegal or undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship over a period of several years?

A total of 62 percent of respondents "support" or "strongly support" the proposition, while 35 percent "oppose" or "strongly oppose" the proposition.

The results are of little value due to the fact that the question itself leaves much to the imagination. What does it mean to "earn" citizenship? Past amnesty proposals did not require much effort, and obviously how one envisions this "earning" process colors one's opinion of such a proposal. Does earning citizenship require applicants to learn English at a high-school level, or does it only require applicants to show up to a few English courses and get the instructor to sign a slip of paper, as was the case with the 1986 amnesty? What if the earning process required 1,000 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine? Some respondents likely would be less supportive of the proposal, while others might be more supportive.

Similarly, what does "over a period of several years" mean? At a minimum, this question suggests a three-year period, but some supportive respondents might have had eight or 10 years in mind. And what is the purpose of this time period? Can applicants have their status rejected for any type of infraction during this period? If not, then what is its purpose? What did respondents to the survey have in mind?

This "period of several years" language is just a means of putting up phony hoops the alien will have to pretend to jump through in order to appease those who find instant amnesty problematic. The reality is, once illegal aliens are put on a path to citizenship, there is no chance of it being stopped.

The second question attempts to get at the DREAM Act and DACA (deferred action) issue, but completely misrepresents the real-world policies in framing the question:

Would you support or oppose an immigration reform proposal that allows the children of illegal or undocumented immigrants to earn the right to stay here permanently if they complete a college degree or serve in the military?

A total of 77 percent of respondents "support" or "strongly support" the proposition, while 19 percent "oppose" or "strongly oppose" the proposition.

This question is problematic on at least five counts. First, neither the DREAM Act nor DACA has any language regarding the child-parent relationship. The question asks only about illegal alien children in the United States, who were born to illegal alien parents; in other words, it focuses on children who were brought here illegally by their parents. But whether an illegal alien applicant was brought to the United States by his parents or entered the United States illegally on his own is inconsequential under the terms of the DREAM Act and DACA. But in one instance the alien is not morally or legally culpable, while in the other he has chosen to violate federal law. There is a fundamental difference and the question only seems to be asking about the non-culpable aliens. The problem is that the poll is being used by the media and activists to promote legalizing both types of aliens.

Second, the weasel word "earn" is used here again. As explained above, this allows a respondent who might otherwise have some concerns to imagine some sort of legal requirements to rationalize his support for the proposal. Yet these imagined requirements are not necessarily part of any real-world proposal. An interesting follow-up question might have been: "In your opinion, how would an undocumented immigrant earn the right to stay here permanently?" It is likely that the responses would differ greatly from what has been proposed in Congress.

Third, the survey proposes a legalization policy only for those illegal aliens who "complete a college degree". Yet neither the DREAM Act nor President Obama's DACA require graduation from college. In fact, DACA does not require graduation from high school; applicants are not even required to attend high school. Enrollment in a "literacy or career training program" among other things meets the education requirement. Furthermore, illegal alien applicants simply have to be "currently in school" at the time of application; dropping out the day after submitting a DACA application is perfectly acceptable. As for the DREAM Act, the proposed minimum education requirement is graduation from high school or a GED. Completing a college degree is not part of any existing legalization program or proposal, and the results of this poll should not be used as indicator of support for the DREAM Act or DACA.

Fourth, the survey proposes a legalization of illegal aliens who serve in the military. Under DACA, applicants can acquire deferred action status if they are "honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States". There are two problems here: First, the U.S. military will not knowingly enlist an illegal alien and second, even if an illegal alien does somehow manage to enlist, there is a better benefit than the deferred action status provided under DACA. Existing federal law allows illegal aliens who have served honorably to become permanent residents. In other words, DACA is not a benefit to any illegal alien who has served honorably. As for the DREAM Act, some versions do not require military service. Instead, applicants can work in the "uniformed service", which would include work at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the U.S. Public Health Service. It is unlikely that many illegal aliens will legalize through the military. The military component is simply a way of making amnesty seem more attractive and amounts to window dressing advanced by politicians and some pollsters.

Finally, the survey uses the word "children" in order to gain sympathy from respondents. But both DACA and the DREAM Act benefit adults, not just people 17 years of age and younger. If the pollsters were to ask whether respondents supported legalizing "illegal aliens up to 35 years of age who knowingly and willingly entered the United States illegally" — as the DREAM Act would do — it is likely that the response would be somewhat different.

The Politico survey is yet another clear example of legislative proposals being misrepresented in polls in order to create the fiction that the public supports the amnesty agenda.

Fortunately, better polls are available here, here, here, and here.