July 10, 2008

Poll Numbers and Government Priorities

Carroll Andrew Morse

Two recent newspaper articles have suggested that the results of the Rhode Island College Bureau of Government Research and Services poll released on July 1 imply that immigration enforcement is not an issue of interest to Rhode Islanders; one article was from a source with an established track record of writing thoughtful, long-form news-analysis pieces, Ian Donnis of the Providence Phoenix

[Providence City Councilman Luis Aponte] calls Cicilline’s liberal stance on immigration “absolutely right for the city,” but, he adds, “[I] think it does not play out well in a broader discussion.”

This might be a safe assumption, considering how the mayor and Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman have faced considerable public criticism for bucking Carcieri’s executive order on immigration. (Then again, in a recent Rhode Island College poll, just four percent of respondents ranked illegal immigration among the state’s biggest problems.)

…the other was from Scott MacKay of the Projo
Last night, Governor Carcieri was again on national television –– conservative Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly’s show –– to talk about his executive order cracking down on immigration.

While Carcieri, some legislators and the talk-radio hosts may think the issue is gaining traction locally, a recent public opinion survey by veteran pollster and political science Prof. Victor Profughi, of Rhode Island College, shows a substantial disconnect between average Rhode Islanders and political figures pushing illegal immigration as a top issue.

When asked “what do you think is the biggest problem facing Rhode Island right now,” hardly any respondents mentioned illegal immigration. Thirty-three percent said the economy, 17 percent said the state budget, 6 percent mentioned gas prices, 8 percent listed government corruption, 6 percent said taxes, 5 percent said education and 4 percent said illegal immigration.

In reponse to both excerpts, let me suggest that using polling results from open-ended questions to determine what people believe government's day-to-day priorities should be is a premise flawed from the start. In the present-day Rhode Island that we know and love, we have a perfect example of the limitations.

According to that same RIC poll, a whopping total of 1% of people surveyed gave an answer of "roads" when asked what the biggest problem facing the state was. We can safely take an answer of "roads" to include the sub-category of "potentially collapsing bridges", a problem the RI public is well-aware of.

Now, as far as I know, no one is seriously arguing that any plans for addressing Rhode Island's bridge maintenance troubles should be placed on the backburner until a bunch of other problems with better polling numbers are "solved”. I haven't seen anyone in the mainstream media, in the blogosphere or in person argue that Governor Carcieri's March announcement (the same month the illegal immigration executive order was issued, by the way) of Rhode Island’s need to effect 600 million dollars worth of "bridge repair and replacement" was a distraction from the “real” issues that government should be paying attention to. Indeed, the reaction to the bridging troubles has been exactly opposite, more along the lines of why wasn't state government paying better attention to this all along -- again, despite a meager 1% polling number for the problem of "roads".

So if a one-one-hundredth polling response does not delegitimatize the decision by Rhode Island’s executive branch of government to take some high-visibility steps to address problems that have developed over the long term in the area of “roads”, then why should Governor Carcieri's decision to address the problem of illegal immigration -- a problem also that also has been allowed to build up over the long term -- be viewed as controversial because of a similarly low (but higher) polling response?

Would it make sense to stop repairing the bridges too?

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Just because 4% of the people think immigration is not THE top issue,doesn't mean only that number think it's important.I don't think it's the top issue-I think rising energy costs and food prices and a recession are the top issues.But I think immigration is a significant issue.
The lionization of illegal aliens by useless left wing fools is just stupid.They need a cause because otherwise they'd be out of work as "advocates"(hushed,reverent tones here)or "activists"or "progressives"or whatever else they like to call themselves.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 10, 2008 9:19 PM

Let's be realistic. This state is so cravenly socialist that you've got about an 85 % chance of a pollster calling primarily people who think immigrants are the cat's meow- assuming they aren't immigrants themselves.

Posted by: EMT at July 10, 2008 11:34 PM

Illegal immigration effects all of the answers to the open-ended question. The "writers" will never change anyone's mind that already realize that it is a real problem in our state. The people of Rhode Island need to stand up and make some noise. We can change this mess that they have gotten us into!

Posted by: SPECIAL K at July 11, 2008 12:18 AM

True, EMT, the state is quite liberal leaning. That makes the finding of the RIC poll - that 75% of Rhode Islanders polled support the Governor's Executive Order on illegal immigration - all the more remarkable.

Posted by: Monique at July 11, 2008 8:10 AM

Can someone please tell me why the illegals in this state are so protected?? Why are they the chosen ones? I just don't get it!! They cost us money, they take our jobs, they suck us dry in the social services department....just what the heck is the draw?? It can't be for the votes....after all, according to the pro-illegal lovers in this state, illegals can't vote...or drive...or get health benefits...or housing...yeah right!!! It is disgusting how some at the ProJo simply fawn over these illegals! Can someone please tell me WHY??

Posted by: Donna C at July 11, 2008 9:24 PM

>>Can someone please tell me why the illegals in this state are so protected

Because politicians have fooled themselves into thinking that illegal aliens will remember them and vote for them when they get legal.

Posted by: Ralph at July 15, 2008 11:29 AM

According to a Dept. of Human Services employee I spoke to, undocumented immigrants can NOT receive any form of public assistance.

He said it's always been like this, and nothing has changed.

What that means, is that undocumented immigrants work for what they need, taking any job they can get, because they come from poor countries where there's little to no opportunity to better their and their families lives.

When you look at the situation clearly, the continued effort to demonized undocumented immigrants is puzzling, especially considering the number of very serious problems we have to solve in this state and country, from the budget deficits, to the lack of jobs, to the social problems, to the decaying infrastructure.

To focus the lens of condemnation onto meat packers, factory workers, construction workers and janitors without the proper papers is wrongheaded, meanspirited, unproductive and a waste of time and energy that would be better expended addressing and solving the real problems we face as a state and nation.

Posted by: Citizen at July 21, 2008 12:29 PM
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