LAMAR SMITH: Skewing the Polls on the Immigration Debate

Most media surveys are designed to favor amnesty

By Cong. Lamar Smith

Texas Insider Report: WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new year, a new Congress, and a new presidential administration, but the same perennial debate about illegal immigration. And with it comes countless polls that suggest solutions to the problem.

Americans should be wary of public opinion polls that conclude a large proportion of voters favor amnesty for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Numerous polls ask loaded questions skewed to obtain the desired results. And the liberal media, which supports amnesty, is more than happy to promote biased polls that portray the public as believing that amnesty is in the best interests of America.

So how are Americans misled by these slanted polls?

First, a number of the opinion surveys use samples and methods that do not accurately reflect Americans’ views.

Polls that are conducted disproportionately on either landline telephones or cellular phones exclude major demographic groups of individuals. Americans under 30 years of age are more than three times as likely to rely exclusively on cell phones for communication as individuals over the age of 65.

Some surveys do not contact a representative number of respondents. Also, some polls contact a disproportional number of Democrats who are more likely to favor amnesty.

Second, samples often include non-citizens, such as illegal immigrants. This introduces a significant bias when analyzing public policy since they can be expected to support amnesty. So their participation means the poll would misrepresent the will of the American people.

Third, poll questions are prejudiced when they lead the respondent to an answer that favors amnesty. Biased polls use terms that portray illegal immigrants’ status in the most positive light while using language that implies enforcement of immigration laws is inhumane or impractical.

For example:

  • “Undocumented” is often used instead of “illegal” to mischaracterize unlawful immigration status as a mere technical error.
  • And “mandatory deportation” or the “deportation of all immigrants” describes enforcement of the law in such a way that respondents inevitably select the alternative — amnesty.

A better approach asks respondents whether gaining control of the border or legalizing unauthorized workers in the United States is more important. This question’s results have historically ranged from a
majority to three-fifths supporting border controls over amnesty.

Fourth, another egregious tactic of pollsters is to present enforcement of immigration laws as extreme.

Offering as a choice the “mass deportation of all illegal immigrants” sounds heartless and is impractical. It’s no wonder that people choose conferring amnesty after illegal immigrants meet certain conditions. Sometimes the “conditions” aren’t even defined. And when they are, the “conditions” sound reasonable even though they are meaningless and unenforceable.

The typical conditions for amnesty mentioned in polls are background checks, fines and payment of back taxes. But how do you check on someone who has been in the United States illegally and who may have used numerous names? Many illegal immigrants steal the identity of Americans. Are fines just another way of letting someone buy amnesty and then citizenship?

And illegal immigrants likely didn’t pay any taxes since their incomes usually are lower. Besides, how much in government benefits will the legalized immigrants obtain in the future?

So it seems that there aren’t any real requirements in exchange for amnesty after all. But the pollsters and the media don’t want voters to know this. Media coverage in general is so pro-amnesty that it wrongly influences how Americans think about immigration.

Biased polling and slanted media coverage prevents Americans and their representatives in Congress from having the facts to make informed decisions.

Policymakers should discount biased polls.

Congressman Lamar Smith represents the 21st District of Texas. He serves as chairman of the House Science, Space & Technology Committee, is also a member of the Committee on Homeland Security, and is a former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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