Chris Chmielenski's picture


  by  Chris Chmielenski

A new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and funded by the Ford Foundation attempts to debunk a poll conducted a few months ago by Zogby and the Center for Immigration Studies.

All polls have an agenda, but I invite you to compare the questions. I think you’ll find that the Zogby poll tries to reveal people’s opinions versus the Public Religion Research poll that tries to manufacture people’s opinions.

Last year, Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals offered his organization’s support for a mass amnesty at a Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearing, contradicting the opinions of its church-going members according to the Zogby poll results.

The Zogby poll also showed that the mainline Protestant, Catholic and Jewish religious leaders campaigning for amnesty are also out of step with their adherents.

In December, the Zogby poll revealed that more than 60% of all Christians supported the enforcement of immigration laws, causing illegal aliens to go home over time, versus an amnesty. But the new Public Religion Research poll found that 66% favor amnesty instead.

But all you have to do is look at the polls and see why there’s a discrepancy.

In the Zogby poll, respondents were given these descriptions of two options of dealing with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country:

Do you support or oppose allowing illegal immigrants to stay here legally and be put on a path to citizenship if they pay a fine, study English, and undergo a background check?

- OR -

Do you support or oppose reducing the illegal immigrant population over time by enforcing existing laws (such as requiring employers to verify the legal status of workers, increasing border enforcement, and more cooperation with local law enforcement)?

When asked to choose between the two, 64% of Catholics, 62% of Mainline Protestants and 76% of Born-Again Protestants favored the option of enforcing laws to cause illegal aliens to go home.

So, why did this new Public Religion Research poll get almost exactly the opposite response? Probably the main reason is that one option offered the legalization wrapped in tough enforcement, while the second option essentially offered the status quo, rather than a solution.

The question asked respondents to choose from one of the following statements:

Any immigration reform plan must reflect our economic interests and our values as a nation. We must secure the border and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. We must also require all illegal immigrants to register with the government and meet certain requirements including working, paying taxes, and learning English before having the opportunity to be responsible, contribute their fair share, and become full members of society.

- OR -

Any immigration reform plan must focus on our national security and the economic well being of the country. Offering citizenship to illegal immigrants who broke our laws amounts to amnesty. We must secure the border and make sure that people here illegally do not take advantage of taxpayer-funded services like education and health care.

Note first that the “crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants” is in the amnesty option rather than in the anti-amnesty option. The anti-amnesty option doesn’t suggest any solution to the illegal aliens already here; it basically calls for a continuance of the status quo while making sure the illegal aliens don’t use taxpayer services.

Thus, the poll doesn’t present Christians with the actual main option proposed by opponents of amnesty, which is attrition through enforcement.

Also, the pro-amnesty option connects a path to citizenship with the illegal immigrants who “register,” who “contribute their fair share and become full members of society,” and who are “responsible.”

On the other hand, the anti-amnesty option seems to treat illegal aliens as responsible for the ills of society, such as problems in education and health care. It is pretty obvious that these are not neutrally worded options but are loaded in ways to push Christians to go for the option that uses the word “values.”

In contrast, the Zogby poll offered two distinct options for the nation’s 11 million illegal aliens – a pathway to citizenship –or- enforce the laws causing them to go home over time.

What the new Public Religion Research releases on the poll don’t reveal is a number of questions that preceded the “choice” question.

For example, respondents were split (45-to-43) when asked if immigrants strengthen our country or are a burden “because they take our jobs, housing and health care.” Further notice, this question does not ask about illegal aliens; it asks about all immigrants.

Second, when asked about their opinions of illegal immigrants, 55% of all respondents said their opinion was unfavorable. (An alternative version of the question changed the term illegal immigrants to undocumented immigrants and the unfavorable responses skyrocketed to 62%.)

These responses suggest opinions among Christians very similar to that found by Zogby.

But then, the Public Religion Research poll asked a number of questions to focus the respondents on the chief talking points of pro-amnesty religious leaders: How did the respondents feel about keeping families together? How about protecting the dignity of human beings? And biblical example of welcoming strangers.

It was after those questions that respondents were asked to choose between a pathway to citizenship or a plan that wouldn’t deal with the illegal immigration issue at all other than to deny benefits.

By asking the non-immigration related questions in the middle of the survey, the pollsters added in the human element and forced respondents to weigh their personal moral beliefs with rational thought. No one prefers to break up families and violate human rights, but opening up the borders of the United States for anyone who wants to come isn’t a logical solution either.

Again, I note that all polls have an agenda, but I invite you to compare the questions presented by the Zogby poll and by the Public Religion Research Institute. I think you’ll find that the Zogby poll tries to reveal people’s opinions versus the Public Religion Research poll that tries to manufacture people’s opinions.

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Website Content Manager for NumbersUSA

Illegal Immigration
religious leaders

Updated: Wed, Oct 11th 2017 @ 3:45pm EDT

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