Shows Elites Differ from
People on Immigration
gap between the opinions of the American people and their
leaders on immigration is "enormous" and growing,
according to an analysis of survey data collected by the Chicago
Council on Foreign Relations.
The poll found that 60 percent of the American public regards
the current high levels of immigration to be a "critical
threat to the vital interests" of the country, but only
14 percent of the nation's leadership agrees.
The data was analyzed by the Center for Immigration Studies
in Washington, D.C., in its report, "Elite vs. Public
Opinion: An Examination of Divergent Views on Immigration."
The survey was based on interviews with 2,800 "ordinary
Americans" and a cross-section of 400 "opinion leaders,"
including members of Congress, the Bush administration, business
executives, union leaders, journalists, academics, and leaders
of major special interest groups.
CIS found that the large 46-point gap between the people and
the elite is wider than the 37-point difference found in a
similar survey in 1998.
"The poll results indicate that there is no other foreign
policy related issue on which the American people and their
leaders disagreed more profoundly than immigration.,"
said the report. "Even on such divisive issues as globalization
or strengthening the United Nations, the public and the elite
are much closer together than they are on immigration."
On the issue of illegal immigration, the divide was even slightly
larger. The survey found that 70 percent of the American people
said reducing illegal immigration should be a "very important"
foreign policy goal. But U.S. elites care little for enforcing
their own laws. Only 22 percent of the elites interviewed
agreed, creating a gap of 48 points.
The public ranks illegal immigration sixth out of 69 foreign
policy problems they are most concerned about, while elites
ranked illegal immigration at 26th.
Steve Camarota, co-author of the report, said the divergent
views explain recent political events.
"It explains why broad interest group support for an
illegal alien amnesty, including the business community and
labor unions, has not translated into the passage of an amnesty,"
Republicans and Democrats are currently engaged in a bidding
war to see which party can promise to deliver a bigger amnesty
for illegals. Politicians hope that using government to give
favors will translate into political support among immigrants
at the ballot box. Both President George Bush and House Minority
Leader Richard Gephardt, D-MO, have announced they will push
for amnesty programs.
The poll showed that only 27 percent of the U.S. public believes
the president's handling of immigration issues is good or
Most Americans surveyed, 55 percent, said immigration should
be reduced. Just 27 percent wanted immigration levels kept
the same. In stark contrast, only 18 percent of surveyed elites
want immigration levels reduced, while fully 60 percent want
the current high levels to remain the same.
Co-author Roy Beck said that continued "deep public dissatisfaction
with current immigration policy" is an issue "just
waiting for a candidate to champion."