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Misleading Poll Question Doesn't Stop Respondents from Favoring AZ Immigration Law

The Times initially spun a 60%-36% pro-enforcement gap as a "slim margin." And the law doesn't give "police the power to question anyone they suspect is in the country illegally, as the misleading NYT/CBS News poll question claims, but requires reasonable suspicion of such by a policeman, coupled with a lawful stop, detention or arrest.

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll focused on Arizona's tough new anti-illegal immigration law, summarized in a story by Randal Archibold and Megan Thee-Brenan that only made the top of the National section, not the usual front-page placement for a poll story.

At least the print headline was strong: "Poll Finds Serious Concern Among Americans About Immigration." Here's the lead, slanted toward the protesters point of view:

The overwhelming majority of Americans think the country's immigration policies need to be seriously overhauled. And despite protests against Arizona's stringent new immigration enforcement law, a majority of Americans support it, even though they say it may lead to racial profiling.


When the poll was first posted at nytimes.com Monday evening, a teaser headline claimed that only a "slim majority" favored the immigration law, but that was misleading if technically accurate. There was nothing "slim" about the actual results.

51% say the law "is about right," while only 36% said it "goes too far," while another 9% said it "doesn't go far enough." In other words, 60% agree with the thrust of the law, with only 36% thinking it goes too far. (The "slim" modifier was dropped from Tuesday's print edition.)

Not even the liberal slant of the question posed by the Times and CBS stopped the public from showing strong support for Arizona's law. (There's a .PDF version of the poll here.)

Here's question 67:

67. As you may know, the state of Arizona recently passed a law that gives police the power to question anyone they suspect is in the country illegally, requires people to produce documents verifying their status if asked, and allows officers to detain anyone who cannot do so. Do you think this law goes too far, doesn't go far enough, or is about right?


Actually, the law doesn't give "police the power to question anyone they suspect is in the country illegally." It requires reasonable suspicion of such by a policeman, coupled with a "lawful stop, detention or arrest." Even with the slant, people favored tougher enforcement by a substantial margin. One can't help but suspect the poll would have gotten front-page play if the numbers had been reversed.

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