The Public Demands Solutions

By Frank Sharry, New America Media
Friday November 10, 2006

Two polls, one on the eve of the election, the other through the media’s exit polling, confirmed earlier independent polls that the public wants a solution and wants that solution to be comprehensive. 

In a Tarrance Group poll commissioned by the National Immigration Forum and the Manhattan Institute and released on Election Day, likely voters across the nation and in key districts and states were surveyed on immigration. Here are the key findings: 

• Immigration is an important public policy issue to voters, but not a key issue driving voting in the mid-terms for the majority of voters. 

• Voters support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. More see what happened in 2006 (fence and enforcement resources) as a first step rather than as a solution (48 percent-28 percent); want comprehensive reform next year rather than waiting to see how the fence and enforcement increase works out (50 percent-37 percent); reject the idea that enforcement will drive immigrants out of the country (65 percent-32 percent); and agree that Congress should enact comprehensive reform next year (75 percent-20 percent). 

• Voters prefer a candidate who supports comprehensive reform over a candidate that supports enforcement-only (57 percent-37 percent). Perhaps even more importantly, comprehensive reform supporters have more intensity than the enforcement-only supporters (40 percent-27 percent). 

• Voters are still ambivalent about a vaguely defined path to citizenship for those in the country illegally—with half viewing it as “amnesty” (48 percent-46 percent)—but do not believe that a path to citizenship that involves paying a fine, working, paying taxes, living crime free and learning English constitutes amnesty (68 percent-27 percent). 

In exit polls conducted on behalf of the media on Nov. 7, researchers came up with similar findings. According to press reports on the exit polls: 

• Fewer than one in three cited immigration as extremely important in influencing their vote decision. 

• Republicans had only a narrow lead with voters who said immigration was extremely important. 

• Roughly 6 of 10 voters said they believe that undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S. should be offered a chance to apply for legal status. 

• Democrats won support from 61 percent of those who support such a path to citizenship. 


The Dog that Did Hunt 

Latino voters were not supposed to be much of a factor in this election. But look again. In an election eve poll commissioned by NCLR and conducted by the Lake Group, here is what they found: 

• Latinos are energized about voting in this election. 

• The issues on the top of the Latino agenda continue to be education and jobs/the economy, with the war in Iraq coming in third and immigration fourth. 

• However, immigration was a great motivator in this election. The poll found the issue would have a profound influence on how this electorate votes. 

• The treatment of the immigration issue and developments over the last year, is driving Latinos away from the Republican Party. 

According to 2004 exit polls, President Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote. Based on exit polls yesterday, House Republicans won only 27 percent of the Latino vote. 

In addition, exit polls showed that 37 percent of Latino voters ranked illegal immigration as an extremely important issue, far more than was the case for all voters. Also, 78 percent of Latino voters said that those here illegally should be given a chance to apply for legal status, some 20 point higher than other voters. 


What Now? 

The public has spoken. The results are in. The demand is clear. Fix our broken immigration system with a tough, fair and practical solution.  



Frank Sharry is the executive director of the Washington-based National Immigration Forum. Immigration Matters regularly features the views of the nation’s leading immigrant rights advocates.