Americans' support for Arizona’s tough new immigration law is unwavering, with the public unmoved by a legal challenge to the law the U.S. Department of Justice filed last week, according to a new poll that TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence released Monday.
The Department of Justice filed suit against the state of Arizona in federal court July 6, challenging the state's tough new immigration law requiring state and local police to ask ID of anyone they've stopped and then suspect of being in the United States illegally.
“What is interesting here is that Americans are on the side of Arizona and seem to not share the US government’s views against the law, despite wide media coverage of the clash between [President] Obama and [Arizona Gov. Jan] Brewer on this issue,” says Raghavan Mayur, TechnoMetrica president.
The most compelling figure from the poll is that 51 percent of Americans support Arizona's law as it stands, compared with 35 percent who support the U.S. case against Arizona.
The level of support is highest in the South and the West, at 55 percent and 56 percent, respectively. By contrast, respondents in the Northeast were equally divided in their support for Arizona against the United States, 41 percent to 41 percent.
"This tells me that states in regions that have to deal with immigration tend to support the Arizona law because they have a better understanding of the challenges. The states in the Northeast don't have a border problem," Mayur says.
The findings are consistent with other polls showing a majority of the public supports Arizona's law, say other analysts.
“The question I have and the public should ask about this poll is how much were the respondents informed specifically about the law before they answered questions,” says Matthew Kerbel, a political scientist at Villanova University. “Polls that are about issues or laws in particular are different than candidate polls, in that they are often based on more generic impressions.”
Kerbel is struck by the findings that Hispanics and blacks are 61 percent in favor of the U.S. lawsuit against Arizona's law. Just 30 percent of white respondents support the government's suit.
“The differences between whites and nonwhites on this are very stark,” Kerbel says. “The numbers seem to reflect that among white American voters there is something that needs to be done about illegal immigration, and that the Arizona law addresses that. But among blacks and Hispanics, the law is viewed as a strong form of profiling and so there is strong sentiment against it.”
The Justice Department suit asserts that immigration enforcement is a federal prerogative and that Arizona's law usurps federal authority. The case is slated to be argued July 22 by a federal judge in Arizona. The law is scheduled to go into effect July 29.
The poll, which was conducted from July 6 to July 11 among 852 respondents, has an error margin of 3.4 percentage points.
Copyright © 2010 The Christian Science Monitor