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Public Opinion Snapshot: Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the Arizona Law

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Arizona’s draconian new law allowing police to interrogate suspected illegal immigrants at will and detain them if they can’t produce papers has received support in a number of public polls. But that support has been wrongly interpreted as indicating declining support for comprehensive immigration reform. Recent polling shows just how far from the truth that interpretation is.

Consider these results from a bipartisan poll by Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies, conducted for America’s Voice. In that poll—conducted after passage of the Arizona law—voters were asked if they supported "comprehensive immigration reform," defined as:

“Under this proposal, the federal government would strengthen border security and crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants currently living in the United States would be required to register with the federal government, undergo criminal background checks, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for U.S. citizenship.”

This proposal received overwhelming support, 78 percent in favor against 16 percent against, despite all the publicity about the Arizona law.

How is that possible given the documented public support for the Arizona law? The reason is very simple: supporters of the Arizona law are also overwhelmingly supportive (84 percent) of comprehensive immigration reform. This suggests that much of the support for the Arizona law reflects an urgent desire for action on the immigration issue rather than a single-minded commitment to the Arizona approach.

And in fact this desire for action is clearly documented in the same poll. Three-quarters (76 percent) said they wanted Congress to take action now on this proposal rather than wait. Policymakers take note.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.

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This is part of a regular column: Public Opinion Snapshot

For more from the same column, click here