GOP voters ready for reform

The Washington PostJuly 13, 2013 

Immigration reform has more traction with Republican voters than you'd imagine from listening to some talk show hosts and bloggers. A poll out Wednesday shows the gap between the noisemakers and voters on the right.

GOP pollster and consultant Jon Lerner surveyed 1,000 Republican primary voters. Asked to choose between leaving the immigration system as it is and "passing new laws that are not perfect, but do attempt to fix the serious flaws in the current system," Republicans chose imperfect solutions over the status quo by a massive margin: 78 percent to 14 percent. The majority includes primary voters who self-identify as supporters of the tea party movement and some daily Fox News watchers.

Seventy percent of Republicans surveyed support a proposal that: 1) increases border security; 2) requires employers to verify the legal status of job seekers; and 3) establishes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants here, as long as they pass a criminal background check and pay a fine.

Sixty-five percent support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants if it is coupled with substantially increased border security. An additional 8 percent support a pathway to citizenship even without increased border security. (Twenty-one percent said they oppose citizenship under all circumstances.)

In other words, if House Republicans are concerned about voters back home, they should get cracking on immigration reform. Even on border security worries, GOP primary voters said their concerns would be reduced by "increases in border personnel and equipment (75 percent), and homeland security certification (68 percent)."

Seventy-one percent of respondents "support increasing the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country who have advanced skills in engineering, math, science, and technology." And 56 percent "support increasing the number of legal immigrants who come here as guest workers filling lower skill job openings in industries like agriculture and construction."

Lawmakers who listen only to the echo chamber risk being out of sync with their party's base. GOP governors, who are most adept at reading their voters, get this; it's why so many of them support immigration reform. (Another reason might be that immigration reform can add substantially to state coffers without raising taxes.)

The question is whether House Republicans are as keenly in touch with actual voters.

Excerpted from washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn

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