As the debate over the Senate immigration bill has intensified in recent weeks, both the New York Times and The Washington Post have struggled to keep their pro-open-borders editorial views out of the news section. Ten days ago — just 72 hours before the immigration "compromise" disintegrated on the Senate floor — The Post ran a front-page piece titled "Backers of Immigration Bill More Optimistic." The Post quoted Republican supporters of the bill expressing confidence that "the voices of opposition, especially from conservatives, represent a small segment of public opinion," and that the number of anti-amnesty phone calls to congressional offices was leveling off.
To illustrate how supposedly insignificant conservative open-borders foes really are, Post correspondent Jonathan Weisman pointed to a new ABC News/Washington Post Poll, which found that by a 52 percent to 44 percent margin, Americans favored giving illegal immigrants now living in the United States "the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements." Judging from the questions that appear on the Post Web site, surveyors apparently didn't tell respondents that illegal-alien advocates are unhappy about the idea of fining people who had broken the law and are lobbying to get the fines waived or reduced.
Nor did they mention that, as a result of lobbying by the Bush administration, a requirement that illegals pay back taxes was stricken from the bill, or that the federal agency responsible for seeing to it that amnesty beneficiaries meet these requirements, U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services, is plagued by disorganization and incompetence. But if people conducting the survey had bothered to provide readers with such necessary contextual information, we suspect that the ABC News/Washington Post polling team would have found poll respondents to have been much more skeptical about the immigration bill.
But the strangest example of how to spin polling data in favor of the open-borders side thus far has come from an usual political tag team: on the left, the editors and writers responsible for the New York Times' news coverage of the illegal-immigration debate, and, on the right, conservative writer and talk-show host Michael Medved. Late last month, the New York Times ran a front-page, above-the-fold story about a New York Times/CBS News poll, which purported to show that there is "broad support" among Democrats, Republicans and independents alike for major provisions of the Senate immigration bill including a guest-worker program and granting legal status to illegal aliens. At the time, we questioned the wording of several of the questions in the NYT/CBS poll, and noted that the NYT story buried contradictory data, including the fact that 75 percent of respondents favored higher fines and increased enforcement directed at employers who knowingly hire illegals. We noted that Rasmussen Reports had just released data showing that by a 2-1 margin, Americans believe it is more important to gain control of the nation's borders than to "legalize the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States."
According to Mr. Medved, both polls really show that there is "massive support" for a path to "earned legalization" with "strict and demanding conditions." In a column on Townhall.Com, Mr. Medved launched into a searing attack on "hysterical" denunciations of amnesty on talk radio, and erroneously asserted that under the Senate bill "none" of the changes in status for today's illegal aliens would be possible unless certain conditions were met. In fact, the granting of legal status to some 12 million to 20 million illegals already in the United States would begin immediately after passage of the bill. Regardless of how the data are spun, that fact spells amnesty, regardless whether one's politics stand to the left or the right of the pole.