When it comes to taking a position on immigration issues, it’s not what people think, it’s what their parties think that matters the most.
The National Rural Assembly poll released this morning found that Mitt Romney led Barack Obama by 14 points among voters. You can read about that here.
The poll, paid for by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, also asked quite a few questions about immigration in nine swing states. Democrats have a more popular position on immigration in rural America — until that position is linked with the Democratic Party.
When party labels are attached to positions on immigration, however, a majority of rural voters agree with the Republican Party. Partisan labels move how people decide immigration positions by more than 10 percentage points. (For a version of this news article in Spanish, click here.)
Immigration (illegal or otherwise) isn’t being talked about much in this campaign, and you can see why in the National Rural Assembly poll. The issue is much too slippery.
Rural Americans, who are largely Republican, don’t think this is a huge problem and they have very mixed opinions about immigration.
Overall, the rural voters questioned in this poll believe Mitt Romney does a better job of “representing your views on illegal immigration.” He leads President Obama 49 percent to 31 percent on this question.
But, are rural voters worried about immigration? No, not really. Sixty percent said that illegal immigration was a small problem in their community (17 percent), or not a serious problem at all (43 percent).
To see the full poll, click here.
Rural voters are all over the map on the immigration issue. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say immigration is “good for America.” A slight majority (45 percent to 42 percent) say immigration is good for the U.S. economy.
Seven out of ten rural voters, however, support laws “like the ones in Arizona and Alabama that allow local law enforcement officers to check the papers of people they suspect are illegal immigrants.” But they also support a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrant children and they oppose (62 percent to 31 percent) a constitutional amendment that would eliminate citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.
Rural voters are less sure that immigration is good for “rural America,” 50 percent to 45 percent. And a majority of rural voters in swing states (50 percent to 37 percent) say immigration is bad for the rural economy.
The closer the immigration question comes to home, the more wary rural voters become. But, basically, rural voters agree, 59 percent to 31 percent, that the “growing diversity of the country is good for America.”
You can see in the poll that rural Americans are open to immigration and ways to work through the problem of illegal immigration.
But then political party intrudes — and things get interesting.
The pollsters took the immigration positions directly from the Republican and Democratic party platforms and then asked voters which came closer to their point of view. Here are the two positions:
1. Democrats are strongly committed to enacting comprehensive immigration reform that supports our economic goals and reflects our values. Our immigration system is badly broken – separating families, undermining honest employers and workers, burdening law enforcement, and leaving millions of people working and living in the shadows. The country urgently needs comprehensive immigration reform that brings undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and requires them to comply with the law, learn English, and pay taxes in order to get on a path to earn citizenship.
2. Republicans believe our highest priority is to secure the rule of law both at our borders and at ports of entry. The rule of law guarantees equal treatment to every individual, including more than one million immigrants to whom we grant permanent residence every year. That is why we oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it. We insist upon enforcement at the workplace through verification systems so that jobs can be available to all legal workers. State efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked.
When asked this way, with the party labels, 50 percent agreed with the Republicans, position 2. And 39 percent agreed with the Democrats, position 1.
The pollsters then asked the same question, only they dropped any mention of party. The statements simply began, “We are strongly committed….” And “We believe our highest priority….”
When asked which statement came “closer to your point of view,” this time rural voters agreed with the Democrats, position 1, 49 percent to 40 percent.
The mere mention of party changed what people believed.
Republican-leaning rural voters supported the Republican position when it was labeled “Republican.” When the same position was asked without any partisan label, its support dropped 10 percentage points.
That’s the power of partisanship in today’s politics.