Immigration and Public Opinion

A blog about business and economics.
May 9 2013 1:21 PM

What Would A "Responsive" Immigration Policy Look Like?

Reihan Salam has an interesting post bemoaning the fact that the DC debate on immigration seems largely unresponsive to public opinion.

For example, on the current population of unauthorized migrants 44 percent want a path to citizenship, 25 percent want them kicked out, and 25 percent want them to become permanent residents. So the median voter wants permanent resident status only. And on future flow, 25 percent want more legal immigration, 31 percent want the same amount of legal immigration, and 36 percent want less legal immigration. So the median voter wants a steady level of legal immigration. Salam's view is that a more responsive congress would deliver something like this outcome, rather than something like the Gang of 8 bill.

Advertisement

And maybe so. But up top on the Pew survey he's relying on for data also says that an overwhelming 74 percent of the population think the immigration system either needs to be "completely rebuilt" or else needs "major changes". So a responsive polity would delivery major changes to the immigration system. Yet the changes that Pew suggests people support—legal tolerance for current residents plus a flat level of new legal immigrants—wouldn't be major at all. So what's a responsive politician to do? Deliver the major change people want, or deliver the small-bore tinkering that they also want?

Public opinion often has this kind of structure, which is one of the reasons I think responsiveness is overrated as a goal for a political system. People have views that operate at all different levels of generality. Most generally, people would like their own lives and those of their fellow citizens to go better. Within the bounds of plausibility, politicians should try to write laws that do that.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.