Zogby Survey Finds Religious Leaders and Members at Odds Over Illegal Immigration

Stephen Steinlight emails:

Dear Luke,

Hello and (almost) happy New Year. Because you’ve written frequently on Jewish attitudes towards immigration, I very much wished to share the findings (see below) of what is, by far, the largest survey ever done of American Jews on immigration and immigration policy related questions (there are 1684 Jewish respondents). The survey was released this a.m. The findings in the Zogby poll are news because they report a slew of counter-intuitive findings. Findings are also available for other major faith groups, but these contain few surprises. American Jews are always of interest because they’re disproportionately liberal on a range of public policy questions, and when they start to break with that consensus something significant is happening.

While the findings are unsurprisingly in showing a community divided, what is really noteworthy is that a majority takes pro-enforcement rather than pro-amnesty position on most questions. This is very much unlike the lopsided pro-illegal immigration findings in the much smaller cohort used in the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion. The fact is that AJC’s polls are push polls.

The findings are nothing short of remarkable in light of what we’ve been led to believe are “Jewish attitudes.” Thus, fully 78.2% of Jews surveyed (with 48.9 “strongly supporting”) support “reducing the illegal immigrant population over time by enforcing existing immigration laws (such as requiring employers to verify the legal status of workers, increasing border enforcement, and more cooperation with local law enforcement.”)

These findings are far more consonant with my experience of speaking to some 160 Jewish audiences on the subject than anything I’ve seen before.

The likely explanation for these findings is that the option of “attrition” was added — it is unavailable in the AJC survey, as in all other push polls on immigration — producing a finding that more Jews favor enforcement than a “path to citizenship” as well as reducing the illegal population over time through law enforcement. Majorities also disagree with the notion that immigrant labor is needed (60% believe there are enough Americans to do the work), while another finding shows 60% believe government has never made a credible effort to enforce immigration laws.

In these respect, most Jews hold opinions like most other Americans (though given their greater adhesion to what are seen as “liberal” positions, majorities are higher in other faith communities).

These findings are extremely important because they break with what has come to be regarded as the “view of the community,” and show that ordinary Jews are not marching in lock step with their putative leadership.

Here is the press release from CIS:

WASHINGTON (December 29, 2009) – In contrast to many national religious leaders who are lobbying for increases in immigration, a new Zogby poll of likely voters who belong to the same religious communities finds strong support for reducing overall immigration. Moreover, members strongly disagree with their leaders

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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