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Friday, April 30, 2010

More on the Arizona Immigration Law

During the healthcare reform debate, observers pondered the issue of survey questions that asked respondents to give an up or down view of the overall legislation -- as opposed to asking about specific elements of the legislation. Some pointed out that Americans tended to disapprove of the new law in general -- but were positive when specific elements of the bill were tested one by one. This argument is one used by none other than President Obama himself.

Both approaches inform the debate. Almost all survey questions tell us something if we take the time to put them in careful context.

Congress ultimately had to vote up or down on one healthcare law. There was real value in asking Americans about the bill as a package. In similar fashion, although Americans may agree or disagree with various elements of a political candidate’s platform, when push comes to shove, they either have to vote for or against the candidate.

Now, we face a somewhat parallel situation. We have just finished asking Americans about the now hotly controversial Arizona immigration law. We asked generically how much respondents had heard or read about “a new immigration law that was just passed in the state of Arizona.” We excluded those who said they had heard or read “nothing at all.” We then asked the rest if they favored or opposed it “based on what you know or have read about the new Arizona immigration law.”

As my colleague Jeff Jones noted, this survey procedure does not a) attempt to explain the bill to respondents or b) test how knowledgeable the respondent is about the bill. In other words, we did not attempt to explain to respondents what the Arizona bill was or what it mandated.

That’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s important to bite the bullet and explain a potential piece of legislation to respondents in order to get a preliminary view of their reactions. But this is a procedure undertaken with full appreciation for the issues involved. Most importantly, one must focus on the fact that respondents are reacting to what they hear (in telephone interviews). Key words and phrases can be important.

We have seen enough battles over shorthandind proposed legislation in ballot wording to know how complex it can be. Proponents and opponents can disagree wildly on the nuances of how the legislation is described. And most certainly would disagree on the consequences of the provisions of legislation.

We recently saw a significant difference in reaction to proposed financial reform legislation as described by us at Gallup, and as described in a The Washington Post/ABC News poll. Our wording included references to “Congress,” “Federal government,” “law,” and “new powers.” The Washington Post/ABC News wording included none of the above -- describing what was involved more benignly as “stricter federal regulations.” Our poll found significantly less support, and a higher don’t know, than did The Washington Post/ABC News poll.

In the instance of the new Arizona law, we decided it made the most sense to first ask respondents to self-describe how much they had heard or read about it. And then to simply ask about the law with no attempt to describe it. Each respondent therefore answered the ballot question (favor or oppose) based on what he or she had heard or read (just as is stated in the question wording).

To be sure, we don’t have a measure of exactly what people perceive about the bill. We assume people pick up differing perceptions based on hearing snippets of news or commentary. We are in an era in which Americans appear to be selectively exposing themselves to media that reinforces their pre-existing ideological and political positioning. Thus Person A’s view of what the Arizona bill contains may end up being quite different from Person B’s perception of what the Arizona bill contains.

Of course, that’s true when we ask about politicians and political candidates -- few people are truly conversant with all of a candidate’s policy positions. And true when we ask about other policy initiatives and bills -- few people have read most pieces of legislation or laws word by word and are fully conversant with what their implications are. Shockingly, sometimes the legislators who craft legislation are themselves not fully familiar with the bill.

I have in front of me here a printed copy of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 (the immigration bill). It runs 16 pages. I am familiar with the bill. But certainly not as familiar as others. Or as familiar as I would be if I read it word by word.

So basically, what we at Gallup provided is a test of reaction to the Arizona immigration bill based on what people know and have read about it. Recognizing that there is a wide range of the level of depth of that knowledge. And a wide range in what people think they know about the bill.

In this instance, we reported the political reality that -- based on what Americans have heard about, read about, picked up on -- relating to the Arizona bill, they tilt more toward favoring it than opposing it.

One additional thing that Jeff did not get into in his write-up. Support for the bill is quite different by region. Respondents living in the census-defined region of the West, which includes Arizona (but is dominated population-wise by California) are most knowledgeable about the bill (based on their self-assessments). And they are most opposed (by a 38% to 45% margin). Americans living in the South and Midwest are least knowledgeable about the bill -- but tend to approve it. Those in the East are a little more knowledgeable than those in the Midwest and South. And they approve.

In short, the West is the only region of the country that opposes more than favors the Arizona bill.

By the way, Catholics nationwide who are familiar with the Arizona law disapprove of it by a 41% to 34% margin. On the other hand Protestants and other non-Catholic Christians (who are familiar with it) approve it by 49% to 20%. (We do not have a large enough sample size of Hispanics in our sample to report their views reliably, but I can tell you that -- not surprisingly -- Hispanics in our sample familiar with the Arizona law are highly likely to disapprove.)


Tony Lopez-Cisneros said...
April 30, 2010 at 4:02 PM  

The Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll Of 1,002 American Adults Came To This Conclusion:

7 In 10 U.S. Adults Support Arresting People Who Can NOT Prove That They Are Here In The U.S. Legally.

I Find This Extremely Disconcerting, Seeing That The Gallup Poll's Figures Are Only About 10 pts Behind This Angus Reid Poll.

The Overwhelming Majority Of United States Citizens SUPPORT The New Arizona Immigration Law.


Truthfully & Respectfully Yours,

2002/2004 Candidate For Congress,
United States House Of Representatives,
4th Congressional District,
State Of Illinois,



Anonymous said...
May 1, 2010 at 11:00 AM  

Does an infringement on our civil rights require polling? What did polls have to say about the civil rights movement. This shouldn't be defined by it's perception but the negative effects it will have on the Latin American population of Arizona. Also, why would those who tend to be more conservative choose to expand the power of police and government?

Tim said...
May 2, 2010 at 7:23 PM  

Well I certainly won't be voting for Tony Lopez-Cisneros.
It's nice that the poll says that 7 in 10 support Arresting People who can't prove they're here legally, until you actually THINK about what it means. Your standing with a group of friends outside a store. Cop comes up and says you're loitering. You look 'suspicious' - maybe you're illegal - Got your papers? Nope? So what if you actually are a US citizen Amigo - you're going to jail. Except, of course if you're white (like me). I'd never have to produce my papers.

Anonymous said...
May 12, 2010 at 11:35 PM  

Hey Tim, is it too much to ask for someone to produce a driver's license or green card? Geez!

Anonymous said...
May 15, 2010 at 8:04 AM  

yes,as a citizen of these United States it is too much for a policeperson to ask someone for an I.D. card just because they want to..

Anonymous said...
May 17, 2010 at 6:54 PM  

Actually it is, as a citizen do you have a green card? Driver's license does not prove citizenship. Also if you have not done anything wrong, and you are a citizen why should you have to show your ID. This law should apply to everyone, or nobody.

Thus everyone, even whites and blacks should be asked to prove their status (wonder how fast the law will vanish when that happens LOL)

It would not be a problem if it was just asking for the ID, but what happens if they have left it at home? They should go to jail for that? Should you go to jail for that?

Anonymous said...
July 22, 2010 at 4:09 PM  

wonder what people would say if they were trying to stop any other races from being here just targeting one race is not the answer blaming certain races for the country’s problems Wat if they targeted European or African or Asian cause you gotta to remember weather you like it or not only the American Indians were here nobody else look Wat happened to them so if your not an American Indian you grandparents or somewhere down the line were illegal too

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