- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

Monday’s immigrant boycott didn’t do much to shift the public debate on immigration in either direction, according to a new survey that polled before and after the walkouts.

Before the marches, according to the Rasmussen Reports poll, 67 percent wanted an enforcement-first approach to immigration, and that number dropped a statistically insignificant one percentage point in the poll taken after the marches. Meanwhile, support for allowing illegal aliens a path to citizenship remained steady at 53 percent before and after.

“Nationwide rallies, protests, and boycotts on Monday had little if any impact on public opinion,” the pollsters said. “To the degree that there was any movement, it was not what the organizers intended.”

Hundreds of thousands of people — mostly Hispanic immigrants — left their jobs, boycotted “gringo” businesses and joined marches in major U.S. cities Monday, protesting a House immigration enforcement bill and calling for legalization of the estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the country.

The Rasmussen poll showed the protesters’ favorability rating rose from 24 percent to 29 percent, but support for pro-enforcement congressional candidates also rose when compared to support for pro-guest-worker candidates.

Meanwhile, another new poll shows more people support last year’s House bill that boosted border and interior enforcement against illegal aliens than support the current Senate proposal to allow most illegal aliens a path to citizenship.

Stacked head to head, the House bill received 56 percent support while the Senate bill received 28 percent support in the Zogby America survey, sponsored by the Center for Immigration Studies. Another 12 percent wanted to go further than either bill in enforcing the law, calling for mass deportations and roundups.

CIS supports stricter immigration limits, but Steven Camarota, the group’s research director, said it tried to use questions with neutral wording to describe the House and Senate proposals. The poll also found Americans want to reduce the overall level of immigration, both legal and illegal.

When told the current rate is 1.5 million per year across both categories, just 2 percent thought that was too low, another 26 percent said it was “just right,” and 66 percent said that was too much immigration.

Mr. Camarota said that when voters were told the pending Senate bill increases immigration, support for it drops.

“When you do that you tend to find support for it isn’t that strong — partly because they want less, not more immigration,” he said.

The Senate bill that seems to have the most support would take steps to increase border enforcement, though not as much as the House bill, and would create a path to citizenship for most of the estimated 12 million illegal aliens. The bill would also create a new foreign-worker program that would allow hundreds of thousands of workers in each year.

Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who supports a guest-worker program, said most polls now show support for the Senate’s type of approach.

“I watch the public opinion very closely and I believe that in the last month to six weeks general public opinion has shifted quite a lot from the kind of initial knee-jerk crackdown, send them all home, to a thoughtful, more pragmatic, ‘Gosh, we have to do something about the 12 million already here,’” she said.

She said both polls created a false choice by voters, telling them to choose between enforcement and a new guest-worker program that would increase immigration and legalize those already here. She said all sides agree more enforcement is needed, and that the guest-worker programs do include more immigration enforcement.

As for the Rasmussen poll, she said the fact that the latest rallies didn’t move opinion is good news. Many of those who want a guest-worker program feared the rallies would backfire — something some polls suggested had happened after the first set of marches last month.

For example, a Quinnipiac University poll taken in Florida found that twice as many voters, 38 percent, said the first round of demonstrations made them less sympathetic to the protesters’ cause, while 17 percent said they were more sympathetic after the demonstrations.

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