Does the immigration commentary so often heard in conservative media accurately reflect the sentiments of most Republican voters? Not according to the polls. Here’s the exact wording of a Fox News survey question from January:
Which of the following comes closest to your view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently in the United States?
1. Send all illegal immigrants back to their home country?
2. Have a guest worker program that allows immigrants to remain in the United States to work, but only for a limited amount of time?
3. Allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship, but only if they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check?
4. Don’t know.
Some 68% of all respondents, and 60% of Republican respondents, chose the citizenship option—i.e., “amnesty.”
A 2013 Fox poll had a question with similar wording: “Do you favor or oppose allowing the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country to remain in the country and eventually—years down the road—qualify for U.S. citizenship, as long as they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check?”
Again, 74% of all respondents, including two out of three Republicans (67%), favored letting illegal immigrants stay. In fact, Fox has been polling this question since at least 2011 without much change in the results. And Fox’s findings have been replicated by other polls over the years, which consistently show that a majority of GOP voters support comprehensive immigration reform.
The immigration views expressed by Renee Ellmers, Jeb Bush, John Boehner and others on the right may make them pariahs in the blogosphere, but it’s hard to argue that these politicians are out of step with rank-and-file Republican voters.