Even If It's Amnesty, Is It Okay?

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Photo: Getty Images

The newest statewide poll of voters seems to validate one part of the Steve Poizner strategy in his quest for the GOP gubernatorial nomination while rejecting another... and it all comes down to the hot button issue of illegal immigration.

And here it is in a nutshell: the poll shows a lot of Republican voter support for Poizner's tough talk on denying state services for illegal immigrants, but decidedly strong support -- even among Republicans -- for a "path to citizenship" that the candidate decries as "amnesty."

The USC College/Los Angeles Times poll, published over the last two days, found reasonably the same overall results in the primary race for governor as others: Poizner lags rival Meg Whitman by a substantial margin. The poll also found Whitman with a slight lead in a hypothetical November matchup against Democrat Jerry Brown.

But more interesting, and perhaps a better gauge of the chances of success for Poizner to close that gap, are several questions related to illegal immigration. Here are the two relevant questions, as they were asked:

I would like you to tell me whether you support or oppose [each] policy.

Implement stronger enforcement at the border and prohibit those here illegally from benefiting from any taxpayer funded social services, including emergency room treatment and public education for children
here illegally.

Implement stronger enforcement at the border and set up a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who admit they broke the law, perform community service, pay fines and back taxes and learn English.

In question 1, 45% of all those polled voiced either some or strong support for denying access to taxpayer funded services, while 46% voiced either some or strong opposition to denying those services. Among Republicans -- Poizner's target for his tough talk on refighting the Proposition 187 battle -- total support for denying services soars to 61%. As blogged about a couple of weeks ago, that fight presents its own set of risks.

But it's question 2 that we're going to focus on this time, about a "path to legalization."

67% of those questioned voiced support, while only 26% voiced opposition. But those are the macro results of the poll; dig into what are known as the 'cross tabs' and you find 65% of Republicans say they support the "path to legalization" as defined, as do 61% of respondents who describe themselves as conservative.

"I was surprised by that result," said Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who conducted the survey alongside Republican pollster Linda DiVall, in a conference call with reporters this morning.

Now... scroll back up to the wording of the question and the proposal... and then watch the Poizner campaign ad attacking Whitman on the issue of "amnesty."

If you're like me, the position that Team Poizner derides as wrong... "the Whitman/Obama policy," as the ad calls it... is, in fact, the one that even a strong majority of Poizner's base June primary voters support.

So be it, says his campaign.

"Steve believes that amnesty is defined as presented in [the poll] question," wrote campaign spokesperson Bettina Inclan in an email. "So yes, he would be opposed to that question."

It's worth noting that the poll question mirrors part of a proposal put forward in a recent Washington Post op-ed by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). And the reality is that this is not a state issue, per se, but instead a federal one. Still, if this specific immigration issue is one which Poizner believes is a winner for him come election day, then the new poll suggests he's got some work to do in changing the minds of voters.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • Maria

    What does a biased poll produced by a notoriously pro-open borders organization — the LA Times – prove about anything? If you read the LA Times comment boards you will see what their readership thinks of illegal aliens, and it’s not anywhere near what the Times’ position is.

  • Ron

    To reward people who knowly broke are laws is wrong All my life i was told the laws of are country is for every person here but now you say that its all right to brake the laws. And look at the resoults in this country crime all over and on one is responsible for anything thanks to all you politicians for not letting lawinforcement inforce the laws of the land.

  • H Peters

    Ususally the same people who complain about the crime of illegal immigration are the same ones who complain of anchor babies (no crime there) and would be complaining when there grocery bills rise 30 to 50% when cheap labor is not available to pick cropes. This country was founded on welcoming everyone.
    Pizner is trying to appeal to people of limited intellignece as it is the only way he can conceivably get the Republican nomination. He will not win the general election.

  • SteveFan

    finally someone who has the guts to say it, go Steve
    Rememeber years ago Schwarzie wanted to be the enforcer, the hard guy, now he is all weak and girly on the immigration issue. We need Steve

  • Venanta

    We all have our opinions that are what makes us American. Although I am yet to become a citizen, I am proud to call myself an American whenever I travel because of what we stand for, a major aspect of which is equality, and denying this to our friends and neighbors who are just like us is undeserved and unjust. Because of this it is imperative that immigration reform is enacted soon, to free countless of people living in painful shadows of society. All it takes for someone to be placed in such dreadful circumstances is sometimes a single unfortunate event which someone should not have to relive everyday of their life. Just think of how many times you have made mistakes. And yes, some DO pay taxes and it will only benefit America to give them their lives back. I am pre-med and have had countless of times when I could have chosen to be selfish and ignorant but could never stoop so low as to deny someone the freedom to live and that is exactly what is going on right now!