Polls: Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Support Arizona Immigration Law

Thursday, 13 May 2010 03:38 PM

By Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers

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WASHINGTON — A strong majority of Americans support Arizona's controversial new immigration law and would back similar laws in their own states, according to three new polls released Wednesday.
  • Sixty-one percent of Americans — and 64 percent of registered voters — said they favored the law in a survey of 1,016 adults conducted May 6-9 by the McClatchy-Ipsos poll.
  • Some 73 percent of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press said they approved of the provision that requires people to provide proof of their legal status, compared with 23 percent who disapproved. A further 67 percent were in favor of allowing police to detain anyone unable to verify their legal status, while 62 percent supported police having the power to question anyone they believed may in the country illegally.
  • A NBC/WSJ poll found sixty-four percent favor this law, while 34 percent oppose it. But that poll also found those numbers are essentially reversed among Latinos -- with 70 percent of them opposing the law, and only 27 percent supporting it.
Despite what can only be described as overwhelming support throughout the country, local and state governments controlled by Democrats continued to pass resolutions condemning the law or calling for boycotts. The Obama administration, moreover, has suggested it will launch a federal investigation of the law and perhaps a court challenge.

Los Angeles on Wednesday became the latest major city to approve an economic boycott of Arizona in protest at the immigration law. San Francisco passed a similar measure late Tuesday, according Agence France-Presse.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 in favor of the boycott, which bars all travel to Arizona for city-related business and forbids department chiefs from doing business with companies headquartered in the state.

Councilor Ed Reyes decried the law as being un-American.

"I cannot go to Arizona today without a passport," he said. "If I come across an officer who's had a bad day and feels that the picture on my I.D. is not me, I could be summarily deported -- no questions asked.

"That is not American."

Despite such sentiments, the McClatchy-Ipsos found nearly half of Democrats like the law, under which local law enforcement officers are tasked with verifying people's immigration status if they suspect them of being in the country illegally. While the Democratic Party generally is regarded as more sympathetic to illegal immigrants' plights, 46 percent of Democrats said they favored the law for Arizona and 49 percent said they'd favor the law's passage in their own states.

More than 8 in 10 Republicans and 54 percent of independents favor the law.

In addition, about 69 percent of Americans said they wouldn't mind if police officers stopped them to ask for proof of their citizenship or legal rights to be in the country; about 29 percent would mind, considering it a violation of their rights; and about 3 percent were unsure, according to McClatchy.

In the McClatchy-Ipsos poll, almost two-thirds of Americans said illegal immigration was a real problem that hurt the country; they were evenly split as to whether the jobs illegal immigrants take are ones that Americans don't want.

The McClatchy-Ipsos poll had an error margin of plus or minus 3.07 percentage points for all those surveyed and 3.26 percentage points for registered voters.

These results speak to the political land mines that immigration policy presents for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. Obama has called the Arizona law misguided. The Justice Department is considering a lawsuit to block it, concerned about the implications for civil rights and for police, who might be diverted from basic public safety-tasks or find it harder to talk to potential witnesses in criminal investigations.

The poll results also illustrate the uphill battle that immigrant-rights activists face in pushing Congress to pass legislation that would pair tougher border enforcement — which is universally popular — with a path to citizenship for immigrants who are here now illegally.

While many Democratic politicians, including Obama, favor such so-called comprehensive legislation, they lack the bipartisan support needed to make it law.

Heading into this year's congressional elections, they also face an electorate that's sensitive to losing jobs or diverting services to undocumented laborers, because of the economic crisis.

The Pew survey also identified an age gap: Just 45 percent of people younger than 30 approve of the Arizona law, while three-fourths of Americans 65 and older approve.

McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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