Cooking the Books on Latino Support for Mass Deportation


This week the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the “think tank” of the anti-immigrant lobby, announced the results of a new CIS-sponsored Zogby poll purporting to show that people of color, including Latinos, support their mass-deportation, anti-immigrant agenda.

Coming from the same group whose leader, Mark Krikorian, recently argued that Judge Sotomayor should change her name to sound more “Anglo,” and who has previously blamed immigrants for global warming, CIS' viewpoints and strategies are clearly far from mainstream. Still, this latest effort to muddy the waters about public opinion on immigration ventures into the realm of the absurd.

CIS argues that people of color actually prefer enforcement-only approaches over comprehensive immigration reform. They claim that their “poll of Hispanic, Asian-American, and African-American likely voters finds some support for legalization.  But overall each of these groups prefers enforcement and for illegal immigrants to return home.”  The CIS “poll” amazingly found that 52% of Latinos “support enforcement to encourage illegals to go home; 34 percent support conditional legalization.” 

That's right, CIS has cooked up a plan to try to convince us that a majority of Latinos support the mass deportation of the 12 milllion immigrants living and working in the U.S. without authorization. Half-baked polling and research is nothing new for these folks, after all.

What's really going on: the questions in the CIS-sponsored Zogby poll are engineered to produce anti-immigration responses and rely solely on input from online respondents, rather than a random sample of the general population (i.e. a true random digit dial telephone poll).  The findings are a dramatic departure from the results of numerous other (credible) polls of Latino voters (see below). 

Here's a quick Public Service Announcement from's Nate Silver, who has called CIS' polling firm, Zogby, the "Worst Pollster in the World":

Zogby International conducts two types of polls. One type are conventional telephone polls. Zogby's telephone polls, while prone to somewhat wild fluctuations and subject to their share of erratic results (such as predicting a 13-point win for Barack Obama in the California primary; Obama lost by 9 points), are actually not terrible, and did fairly well on November 4th.

Zogby, however, also conducts Internet-based polls. These polls are conducted among users who volunteer to participate in them, first by signing up at the Zogby website (you can do so yourself here) and then by responding to an e-mail solicitation. These Internet polls, to the extent they rely on voluntary participation, violate the most basic precept of survey research, which is that of the random sample. And as you might infer, they obtain absolutely terrible results. 

Onto the real research. A May 2009 poll of Latinos nationwide conducted by Latino Decisions found that:

“...over 80% of Latino voters said they supported Obama’s plan that included increased border security, fines for undocumented immigrants, and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants meeting certain requirements – just 14% of Latinos opposed the president’s plan.

A separate May 2009 poll of Latino voters conducted by Bendixen & Associates for America’s Voice found that 87% of respondents would not consider voting for a candidate “who was in favor of forcing most illegal immigrants to leave the country” and 89% favored a “path to citizenship” vs. only 4% of respondents who supported a policy to force the undocumented to leave the country.Four percent.

As NCLR's Clarissa Martinez put it today at The Huffington Post:

I think I can say without fear of contradiction that whichever Latinos [CIS leader] Mr. Krikorian thinks he knows well enough to speak authoritatively about the true pulse and aspirations of the Latino community, they are not the Latinos I grew up with in my family, among my friends, in my schools and neighborhoods. Those Latinos want a legal immigration system that works, a way for immigrants to work with dignity and keep their families together, and to be part of the United States like every generation of immigrants before us has.

Similar research of other ethnic groups also found support for immigration reform and proves that CIS polling is not only suspect but clearly dishonest.  Lake Research Partners conducted focus groups with African-Americans (PDF) in cities around the country and found broad support for immigration reform and rejection of punitive enforcement-only measures.

The fact that the American public rejects, by a clear and consistent majority, enforcement-only immigration proposals is sure to be driving the troubled researchers over at CIS a bit batty. They really did go over the top this time trying to cook up new anti-immigration reform research, though.

As to Zogby International, we'll be back with a "scientific opt-in internet poll' soon, to determine their credibility with the public.

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