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This week alone, a raft of new polling has underscored the fact that a majority of Americans want immigration reform with a path to citizenship—not legalization without citizenship or any mass deportation option. Quinnipiac finds that 56% of all Americans support the creation of a roadmap to citizenship, the Washington Post/ABC News has the number at 55%, and Public Policy Polling found support from 64% of voters. You can check out this polling roundup for even more polls and even more evidence that supporting citizenship is a mainstream position that has comfortable support from Americans, voters, and even Republicans.
The momentum for real reform, we’ve noticed, has made the anti-immigrant groups increasingly more shrill and desperate. Take, for example, this latest gambit from the nativist “think tank” Center for Immigration Studies, a creation of anti-immigrant leader John Tanton. The anti-citizenship, anti-immigration reform conservatives are now pushing around a new poll which they believe refutes all of the evidence we just cited. The poll is from Pulse Opinion Research, an arm of the conservative-learning polling company Rasmussen Reports, and is being lifted up across the conservative media. The Daily Caller’s headline on the story even reads, “Immigration reform group says polls showing support for pathway to citizenship are all wrong.” Yes, their poll is right, and all the other polls are wrong. Just like their polls were right and all the other polls were wrong last November, when Romney was supposed to beat Obama in an election landslide.
This CIS/Pulse poll somehow found the complete inverse of all the other, more established polls: that 52% of all Americans want immigrants to go home, with only 33% wanting them to be given legal status. Coincidentally, as Think Progress noted, that’s the exact position that the Center for Immigration Studies takes—that a majority of Americans prefer immigrants to be deported rather than legalized.
There are a few things wrong with this picture. Pulse Opinion Research, first of all, is a mercenary group widely debunked for being willing to find (for a price) whatever poll results a client may need. In the words of polling experts who know, a survey from Pulse Opinion just doesn’t pass the laugh test. Here’s David Nir at Daily Kos from August 2012, slamming an election poll Pulse had recently done:
Here’s a nice sketchball poll you shouldn’t believe. First off, it’s from Pulse Opinion Research. Commit that name to memory if you haven’t already done so because that’s Rasmussen’s for-hire arm—any bozo can plunk down some cash and have access to Raz’s award-winning polling infrastructure.
Here’s Tim Mak at the FrumForum, back when Pulse was first created, writing about just how cheap a mercenary the outfit is:
The pollster’s newest venture, Pulse Opinion Research, will allow anyone to commission a scientific, nationwide poll for the price of an IKEA sofa. Have a long-lasting feud about what America really thinks about a topic? Settle it for $600.
Classy. And here’s Think Progress this morning, quoting polling expert Mark Blumenthal:
The firm that conducted the Center for Immigration Studies’ poll, Pulse Opinion Research, is a subsidiary of Rasmussen Reports. It allows anyone to commission a survey using an automated computer phone-calling system — a tactic that can heavily skew results. Polling expert Mark Blumenthal said Rasmussen, which has identical methodology, “manages toviolate nearly everything I was taught what a good survey should do.”
What is perhaps most laughable is how the Center for Immigration Studies is presenting its poll—by claiming that all the other polls are biased due to manipulative wording. As Mark Krikorian wrote yesterday:
When you ask people whether they think “undocumented immigrants” should be able to “earn” legal status by “paying their taxes” or whether they should all be deported, it’s no surprise that a lot of people pick door No. 1. But questions that aren’t based on the pro-amnesty side’s assumptions yield different results.
Of course the Center for Immigration Studies wouldn’t be guilty of this kind of misleading wording, would it? It wouldn’t be guilty of asking questions like “Is the main reason they are pushing for this legislation because they are pandering to Hispanics OR because they are generally concerned about illegal immigrants?” or “Do you agree or disagree that giving legal status to illegal immigrants does not solve the problem because rewarding law breaking will only encourage more illegal immigration in the future,” right? Oh wait.
And since they’re using this hired-gun polling firm, the precise language they use wouldn’t have a dramatic effect on what results they got back, would it? Oh wait:
It is also Rasmussen’s methodology that has drawn the most fire. A recent Politico article features a whole gallery of Democrats arguing that Rasmussen’s poll questions are often biased, leading to results that are more favorable for Republicans than for Democrats.
Pulse Opinion Polling will likely be hit even harder by critics, as it allows each client to dictate survey wording.
This leads the door open for statistical abuse, a possibility that Rasmussen doesn’t rule out. “If people were consciously abusing it, it could lead to some bad things. If you were to ask a question that was wildly loaded… you will get a biased result.”
We would think that Republicans would have learned their lesson with bad polling that must contort itself to fit their worldview. Remember how conservatives who only paid attention to conservative-bubble election polls were convinced that Romney was going to win in 2012—and then didn’t know what hit them when they were finally confronted with reality? The same lessons apply here. The anti-immigrant crowd can go on promoting its own “facts.” But reality will intrude at some point, and it might not be very happy with Republicans who obstruct an immigration reform that a real majority of Americans want to get done.