False choice alert: NYT/CBS poll says "Majority Favor Changing Immigration Laws"

Julia Preston and Marjorie Connelly of the New York Times get out their megaphone and shout, "Majority Favor Changing Immigration Laws, Poll Says". The New York Times/CBS News Poll in question obtains that result by offering a false choice, and some of the other answers in the poll are a bit schizophrenic [questions: graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/20070525poll.pdf].

And, needless to say, the NYT is pushing what is actually a lie to the greatest extent possible:

Taking a pragmatic view on a divisive issue, a large majority of Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status and to create a new guest worker program to meet future labor demand, the poll found... Point by point, large majorities expressed support for measures contained in the legislation that has been under debate since Monday in the Senate...

Not so fast now. First, the false choice is in this question:

61. If you had to choose, what do you think should happen to most illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years: They should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status, OR They should be deported back to their native country?

62% said the first, 33% said the second. There are other options which weren't, of course, asked, such as strictly enforcing the current laws in order to encourage many of those here now to return home. Why wouldn't the NYT and CBS ask about that? Obviously, the poll question was dictated by the result they wanted. This is made obvious by the next question they asked:

62. ASKED OF THOSE WHO SAID DEPORTED: Do you think it is possible to find and deport most illegal immigrants to their native countries, or do you think that is not possible?

That was 19 for the first, 14 for the second, plus 1 for undecided (adding up to the 33% in the previous question). Needless to say, this is a stock talking point employed by Bush, Chertoff, and others.

There's also this question:

48. How much have you heard or read about changing the laws regarding immigration in the United States โ€” a lot, some, not much, or nothing at all?

Only 26% said "a lot", with "some" at 51% and "not much" at 18%. One wonders how much the results would differ if they had broken them out by those groups.

Other questions showing support for "guest" workers are followed by this:

71. Some people say a guest worker program would DECREASE illegal immigration by giving the people who want to come and work in the U.S. a legal way to do so. Other people say a guest worker program would INCREASE illegal immigration because those who came to work in the U.S. might stay longer than allowed. What do you think โ€” would having a guest worker program increase or decrease illegal immigration?

45% say it would increase vs. 41% saying it would decrease. Perhaps they should have asked that question before asking the other "guest" worker questions.

And, in the schizophrenia category, 69% (vs. 24%) say yes to this:

Should illegal immigrants be prosecuted and deported for being in the U.S. illegally, or shouldn't they?

Another question shows more support for the Border Patrol than building fences (actually another false choice). 34% would favor a "tamper-proof government-issued identification card", vs. 15% against and 49% undecided. A slim majority oppose a database of all workers, including citizens. 51% vs. 34% favor skills-based rather than family-based immigration.

Then, there's this misleading question about the anti-American DREAM Act:

75. Do you think the children of illegal immigrants who graduate from high school in the U.S. should be allowed to attend state public colleges at the same reduced in-state tuition rates as other state residents, or should they pay higher tuition?

52% say they should pay the in-state rate, with 39% saying the higher rate. However, that question is highly misleading, since the issue is that the children themselves are illegal aliens, not just the parents. And, they don't note that every discount that goes to an illegal alien is one that was taken away from a citizen.

If they had correctly stated the issue - and informed the respondents of everything involved in this issue - no doubt the result would be very different. Of course, that applies to most of the other questions in the poll as well.