A public radio group recently sponsored a poll by Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall to survey Northwest residents on a variety of topics, including the economy, education funding, alternative fuels, immigration, and obesity. Today Oregon Public Broadcasting released findings from the survey. Many of the results are predictable, but a few stand out. Of most interest are the strangely mixed findings on immigration. The headline-making finding showed that there is broad support for Arizona's controversial new immigration law; in Oregon, 61% strongly or somewhat support it, along with 75% in Idaho, and 58% in Washington. (Pollsters didn't break the states down by region.) But in this case the headline misleads; voters may be in favor of Arizona's law, but that doesn't appear to mean they're particularly opposed to illegal immigrants.
As it turns out, respondents have a pretty confused idea about what the impact of illegal immigration really is. Pollsters started with a general question about whether illegal immigration was a problem where they live. Fewer than half said yes (45%, with ID-50%, OR-49%, and WA-43%). Moreover:
Undocumented immigrants work hard and don't cause disturbances
Agree: 60% (ID-58%, OR-57%, and WA-62%)
Most crimes in my area are committed by illegal immigrants
Agree: 25% (ID-33%, OR-31%, and WA-21%)
Undocumented immigrants are good people doing the best they can Agree: 73% (ID-66%, OR-69%, and WA-76%)
Yet despite have generally positive feelings about undocumented workers, as a matter of policy, respondents take a far harder line. A majority (57%) believe children born in the US to illegal immigrants (that is, US citizens) should be deported and a similar majority (58%) believe they shouldn't receive state services. And here's some final confusion. Although that same majority (59%) think undocumented workers lower wages or take jobs from legal workers, only 11% suspect they have failed to get a job because it was given to an illegal worker.
As a political matter, this complicates things for anyone who wants to try to gin up anti-immigrant sentiment. People appear to be generally in favor of tightening immigration laws, but they don't view the immigrants themselves as bad people. For those of us who are appalled by Arizona's law, the findings also show that such a thing isn't possible only in a border state. It could happen here.
There are a few other interesting findings unrelated to immigration, which I'll post below the jump.
The Northwest appears to be ahead of the curve in terms of approving alternative energy sources. Strong majorities approve of increasing hydroelectric power, wind, solar, biomass, wave, and geothermal energy sources. They strongly disapprove of coal (63%) and are split on nuclear (47% in favor, 43% opposed). But perhaps most impressively, respondents are willing to put their money behind alternative fuels:
Do you believe that government officials should make the development and manufacturing of alternative energy sources a top priority, even at the expense of other business opportunities?
Yes, 47% ( ID-48%, OR-47%, WA-46%)
No, 31% (ID-31%, OR-33%, WA-30%)
Unfortunately, when asked about the BP oil spill, respondents were less green. Asked to select between two statements, one identifying the spill as a "wake up call" to develop new energy sources and one to essentially continue as we are, they were exactly split 48% to 48%.
The findings for the entire poll can be found here (.pdf). As always, I welcome your thoughts and interpretations.