Advocates' poll shows Utah support for immigration reform
Survey • A political scientist questions accuracy of the all-positive data.
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A new Utah poll, commissioned by groups that favor comprehensive immigration reform, says there is resounding support for a reform bill now before Congress with 90 percent of respondents saying it is very or somewhat important to fix the system this year.

The survey says 71 percent of those polled strongly or somewhat support an immigration reform plan being debated in Washington, and that 64 percent said they would be more likely to vote for officeholders who support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

Conducted by Harper Polling, the poll was sponsored by the Alliance for Citizenship, Partnership for a New American Economy and Republicans for Immigration Reform. Questions were not nakedly skewed but leading, introducing the legislation as "bipartisan" that "would secure our borders" and "block employers from hiring undocumented immigrants."

"I'm guessing that got well into the 70s if not the 80s," Adam Brown, assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University said about the poll when read the question about support for the reform bill now in the U.S. Senate. "That almost feels more like a message-testing poll."

Brown says pollsters trying to get a real read on an issue typically include language representing both sides of the subject.

"Here, there's no effort made on that at all. Every word on it is positive," he added. "If you're trying to frame the issue to get support that's fine, but I'm not sure it's really telling you who supports it."

Still, it was praised by the Salt Lake Chamber CEO, Salt Lake County Mayor, Overstock.com and the bishop of Salt Lake City's Catholic Diocese.

"The poll demonstrates that Americans in general, and Utahns in particular, are compassionate and do not want to see immigrant families continue to be separated by enforcement-only policies," Bishop John Wester said in a statement. "Utahns are telling their elected officials to act and, if they do, they will have their back."

Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the chamber, took a swipe at Utah's delegation, saying the business community stands with religious leaders, the majority of Utah residents and local politicians in calling for comprehensive reform.

"Business leaders make tough decisions every day and we have that same expectation of politicians who represent the people of Utah," Beattie said. "We deeply appreciate political leaders who are working to solve problems instead of making excuses."

The Gang of Eight bill is currently being debated by the Senate with a vote expected within three weeks. Sen. Mike Lee opposes the measure, preferring a piecemeal approach endorsed by the Republican-controlled House. Sen. Orrin Hatch wants to ensure immigrants pay back taxes as a condition of his support.

Of those polled, 55 percent self-identified as Republican, 18 percent as Democrat and 27 percent as independent. The survey, conducted between June 6-7, included 525 Utahns.

djensen@sltrib.com