Opinion poll: Public sides with Arizona over US on new immigration law

Fifty-one percent of Americans support Arizona's tough new immigration law, while 35 percent back the US lawsuit challenging it, a new TIPP poll finds. There's a stark racial divide over the issue.

By , Staff writer

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    Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks with a reporter at the annual meeting of the National Governors Association Sunday in Boston. The Justice Department sued the state of Arizona last week over its tough new immigration law.
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Americans' support for Arizona’s tough new immigration law is unwavering, with the public unmoved by a legal challenge to the law filed last week by the US Department of Justice, finds a new poll released Monday by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence (TIPP).

The US Department of Justice filed suit against the state of Arizona in federal court July 6, challenging the state's tough new immigration law requiring state and local police to ask ID of anyone they've stopped and then suspect of being in the US illegally.

“What is interesting here is that Americans are on the side of Arizona and seem to not share the US government’s views against the law, despite wide media coverage of the clash between [President] Obama and [Arizona Gov. Jan] Brewer on this issue,” says Raghavan Mayur, president of TIPP.

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The most compelling figure from the poll is that 51 percent of Americans support Arizona's law as it stands, compared with 35 percent who support the US case against Arizona.

The level of support is highest in the South and the West, at 55 and 56 percent, respectively. By contrast, respondents in the Northeast were equally divided in their support for Arizona versus the US, 41 percent to 41 percent.

“This tells me that states in regions that have to deal with immigration tend to support the Arizona law because they have a better understanding of the challenges. The states in the Northeast don’t have a border problem,” Mr. Mayur says.

The findings are consistent with other polls showing a majority of the public supports Arizona's law, say other analysts.

“The question I have and the public should ask about this poll is how much were the respondents informed specifically about the law before they answered questions,” says Matthew Kerbel, a political scientist at Villanova University. “Polls that are about issues or laws in particular are different than candidate polls, in that they are often based on more generic impressions.”

Mr. Kerbel is struck by the findings that Hispanics and blacks are 61 percent in favor of the US lawsuit against Arizona's law. Just 30 percent of white respondents support the government's suit.

“The differences between whites and nonwhites on this are very stark,” says Kerbel. “The numbers seem to reflect that among white American voters there is something that needs to be done about illegal immigration, and that the Arizona law addresses that. But among blacks and Hispanics, the law is viewed as a strong form of profiling and so there is strong sentiment against it.”

The Justice Department suit asserts that immigration enforcement is a federal prerogative and that Arizona's law usurps federal authority. The case is slated to be argued July 22 by a federal judge in Arizona. The law is scheduled to go into effect July 29.

The poll was conducted from July 6 to July 11, among 852 respondents with a margin of 3.4 percentage points.

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