Monday, May 28, 2007

How to talk about immigration

Probably not like this, however heartfelt the sentiment.

Celinda Lake, a national Democratic pollster, shared some thoughts (and poll findings) on this nasty wedge issue at the National Conference of State Legislatures' Spring Forum in Washington, D.C. back in April. My transcription of some of her remarks:

Voters are both very emotional yet want to be very realistic about this issue.

Many on the Democratic side, on the progressive side, used to argue this issue from the perspective that "immigrants are good for you." Voters said, "Okay, maybe once they were, but we're full up now. This economy is bad and they aren't good for me anymore."

Some base Democratic constituencies, including African Americans, said, "Hey, don't tell me they take jobs that nobody else wants -- maybe our community wants those jobs."

What has been far more successful is to say: "Immigrants are [like] you. These are hard working people who pay taxes and try to learn English and they deserve a fair route to citizenship. There is no way that we can deport 12 million people."

Voters are very comfortable having deeply contradictory views and usually deeply resent having it pointed out to them. Immigration is one of those [two-views] issues -- but there is clearly a desire to get on a realistic path in a way that is fair to people.

I've heard Lake make these kind of presentations -- she is a very practical pollster who looks for responsible ways to make progressive positions feel attractive to ordinary voters.

Listen to her explain this messaging on this 2 minute podcast. You'll come away with the impression that she believes the U.S. electorate can be talked with -- that folks aren't rubes -- that she likes them.

Via The Thicket at State Legislatures, which bills itself as a "bipartisan blog by and for legislative junkies." It's a pleasant, informative place to visit.

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