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Latest CIS Poll on Faith and Immigration Raises Eyebrows

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Something is clearly amiss when it comes to the latest Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) polling on immigration. Not that it’s a huge surprise, coming from the same “think tank” whose leader recently argued that Judge Sotomayor should change her name to sound more “Anglo…”

In December, the anti-immigration organization hired the polling firm Zogby International to conduct a survey that claims to have found broad opposition among people of faith for comprehensive immigration reform.  While it’s unsurprising that CIS would try to push back against recent public proclamations in support of immigration reform from Catholic, evangelical, and Jewish faith leaders, by steering poll results toward the organization’s desired conclusions, the poll runs smack into some fairly troubling breaches of methodology.

Not only did questions in the CIS-sponsored Zogby poll appear engineered to produce anti-immigration responses, but, most importantly, those who participate in online panels, on which the results were based, are simply not a random sample of the general population in the fashion that a true random digit dial telephone poll is.

So great are the discrepancies that Dr. Robert P. Jones, president of Public Religion Research, concludes in a recent memo:

The CIS/Zogby poll has serious methodological shortcomings, and results should be viewed with considerable caution.

Incidentally, for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Zogby conducted an October 2008 poll of 1,000 U.S. Catholics nationwide that showed broad support for immigration reform.  The poll found that “69 percent of Catholics polled supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, provided they register with the government; 62 percent supported the concept if they were required to learn English.”

Instead of the online only, opt-in methodology, the USCCB poll relied on the tried-and-true method of a random telephone sample.  In other words, it asked an actual sample of people what they thought.