Dobbs Overstates Immigration as Voter Priority - AUDIO

On the March 10th edition of his radio program, The Lou Dobbs Show, Dobbs made the following unsupported and false claim:

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DOBBS: One of the issues of this presidential election campaign year, of course, is illegal immigration, border security, port security. Now, you wouldn't know that listening to Senator Obama, Senator McCain, or Senator Clinton right now, or, for that matter, Ralph Nader, the independent candidate. But the reality is that it is one of the top three issues for American voters in both political parties.1

Lou is wrong again. Media Matters for America has noted that six different polls2 conducted in January and February asked respondents to name the issues most important to them, and not one indicated that "illegal immigration" was in the top three among voters as a whole. The most recent polls on issue priorities have also confirmed this fact:
  • A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll conducted March 14-16, 2008 found "illegal immigration" garnered 5th place as the most important issue.3
  • A NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted March 7-10, 2008 placed "illegal immigration" as the 6th most important issue for voters.4
  • A CBS News/New York Times Poll (Feb. 20-24, 2008) found that only 4% of respondents considered "immigration" as the "most important issue facing this country."5
"Illegal immigration" becomes even less of a priority for voters when placed in the context of the presidential election. Respondents to a USA Today/Gallup Poll (Feb. 8-10, 2008) were asked how important a candidate's position on certain issues influenced their vote. "Illegal Immigration" trailed at 14th place, behind "Medicare," "taxes," and "the environment."6

Also, most Americans believe that Dobbs is wrong regarding the correct approach to immigration reform. Poll after poll in 2007 showed that the American public supported comprehensive immigration reform and rejected deportation-only solutions.7  Only 20-35% favored “enforcement-only” or “mass deportation," while a moderate to strong majority (51%-83%) favored comprehensive immigration reform that included legalization of undocumented immigrants.8

Dobbs attempts to incite anger in his listeners by suggesting that presidential candidates are trying to hide a “top three” issue. Although the candidates have emphasized the economy in the past few months, they haven’t shied away from discussing immigration reform in a way that responds to voters. Just a week before Dobbs’s comments, Senators Clinton and Obama reiterated their support for comprehensive immigration reform, including stronger border security. Senator Obama further criticized the tone of the immigration debate, calling it “ugly.”9 On NPR’s “Morning Edition”, Senator John McCain suggested that "strong anti-immigrant rhetoric" has led to recent Republican losses in Congress, including former Senator Rick Santorum's seat in Pennsylvania and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat in Illinois.10

Contrary to Dobbs's statement, therefore, all three candidates have continued addressing the immigration issue; major candidates are just not addressing it through the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies that Dobbs seems to favor.  These candidates recognize that anti-immigrant political strategies alienate Latinos, who constitute the  largest minority group and fastest-growing voting bloc in the nation.11 12

1. Contradicting polling, Dobbs claimed "illegal immigration" is among "the top three issues for American voters in both political parties." Media Matters for America. March 13, 2008
2. Id.
3. "Problems and Priorities." PollingReport.Com
4. Id.
5. Id.
6. Id.
7. "While Debate Rages, Public Continues to Support Realistic Immigration Solutions." National Immigration Forum, December 10, 2007
8. Id.
9. "Democratic Debate in Austin, Tex." CNN. Transcript provided by NYTimes.Com. February 21, 2008
10. Josh Kraushaar. "McCain Cautions Candidates On Immigration." Politico: The Crypt Blog, Mar 17, 2008
11. "2007 National Survey of Latinos: As Illegal Immigration Issue Heats Up, Hispanics Feel a Chill." Pew Hispanic Center, December 13, 2007
12. "The Hispanic Vote in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primaries." Pew Hispanic Center, February 7, 2008

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