Thursday, March 01, 2012

The American people and immigration

Immigration gets a lot of media attention, and is a source of obsession for many politicians.  A new USA Today/Gallup poll reminds us what we've known for years (and which my dad and I discuss in our book) but which you wouldn't know by listening to the rhetoric of the presidential race: Americans aren't nearly as concerned about immigration as commonly portrayed. It's certainly relevant, but just low on the list.

The easy answer is that given the Republican primary, this is all about the base. But an exit poll in Arizona--supposedly ground zero of anti-immigrant sentiment--showed only 13% of primary voters considered immigration the most important issue.

Further, if we break down the USA Today/Gallup results by party, we see that even Republicans rank immigration very low as an issue of importance for deciding their 2012 presidential vote.

These results tend to play out at the state level as well. For their own reasons, politicians at all levels play up immigration as if it were a major concern for voters (very often using the phrase "the American people"). This gets reported widely, and then copied by other politicians.

Exactly why is a matter for debate, as there are many possibilities that vary according to what level we're analyzing. They may truly believe that Americans agree, or may figure enough of their constituency does to emphasize immigration as an issue. Or they just emphasize it because it's a pet issue and they don't care whether others agree or not. And the media, of course, loves controversial human interest stories.

Regardless, it's important to remember that immigration is rarely as high on the list of "the American people's" priorities as we often hear in the media and from the mouths of politicians. In the 2012 presidential election, they are going to vote in large part on the economy, not on immigration.


Vicente Duque 12:13 PM  

"I speak … about the impending defeat of Barry Goldwater" - "Following gasps, William Buckley exhorted conservatives to embrace reality: "It is wrong to assume that we shall overcome; and therefore it is right to reason to the necessity of guarding against the utter disarray that sometimes follows a stunning defeat"

A book about William F. Buckley
Buckley's Paradise Lost
Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement, Linda Bridges and John R. Coyne Jr., John Wiley & Sons, 358 pages
By Robert W. Merry

Some excerpts :

Buckley displayed similar shrewdness in crafting the magazine’s positions on delicate issues of the day. He boldly excoriated John Birch Society head Robert Welch for splitting the conservative movement with the “extravagance” of his accusatory rhetoric. He did so, however, with characteristic political deftness, only after getting a nod of assent from Barry Goldwater himself. When his staff became hopelessly split over whether it should support or spurn the 1960 presidential candidacy of Richard Nixon, Buckley wrote the editorial himself. Neither supporting nor rejecting the man, he issued a plea, “directed as much to Buckley’s colleagues as to NR’s readers,” for each side to concede that the other’s position fit reasonably within the conservative ambit.

And the authors remind us of Buckley’s brilliance in capturing the zeitgeist at crucial moments. Particularly poignant was his speech to the national convention of Young Americans for Freedom on Sept. 11, 1964—just before the electorate would cast ballots on behalf of Barry Goldwater or Lyndon Johnson. Those in attendance had expected a fiery exhortation to march on to a brilliant November victory. Instead, he stilled the audience with the line, “I speak … about the impending defeat of Barry Goldwater.”

Following gasps, Buckley exhorted conservatives to embrace reality: “It is wrong to assume that we shall overcome; and therefore it is right to reason to the necessity of guarding against the utter disarray that sometimes follows a stunning defeat.” Rather, he said, they must honor Goldwater’s “political nobility” in placing himself and the conservative outlook before the American people. They could do that by “showing not a moment’s dismay on Nov. 4” and resolving to “emerge smiling, confident in the knowledge that we weakened those [adversarial] walls, that they will never again stand so firmly against us.” His words went beyond eloquence to capture just the right sentiment for that particular audience at that particular moment.

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