Poll: Business And Labour On Immigration

Business and Labor on Immigration
Zogby Poll: DC Lobbyists Often Out of Step with Constituencies

Center For Immigration Studies
Washington, D.C.
Contact: Steven Camarota,
(202) 466-8185, sac@cis.org
February 3, 2010

WASHINGTON (February 3, 2010) – A new Zogby poll of senior executives, business owners, and members of union households finds that each of these groups thinks the best way to deal with illegal immigrants in the country is to enforce the law and cause them to return home. This is in stark contrast to lobbyists for large companies, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which argue for legalization. The findings of the survey are consistent with surveys done by the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small enterprises, showing strong opposition to legalization. Among unions, the leadership strongly supports legalizing illegal immigrants, but this survey shows enforcement not legalization is by far the option favored by union members and their families. This survey of likely voters uses neutral language and includes 7,046 members of union households, 2,490 executives (e.g., CEOs, CFOs, VPs or department heads), and 9,990 small business owners.

Among the findings:

When asked to choose between enforcement that would cause illegal immigrants in the country to go home or offering them a pathway to citizenship with conditions, most members of the business community and unions chose enforcement.

Executives (e.g. CEOs, CFOs, VPs etc.): 59 percent support enforcement to encourage illegals to go home; 30 percent support conditional legalization.
Small Business Owners: 67 percent support enforcement; 22 percent support conditional legalization.
Union Households: 58 percent support enforcement; 28 percent support conditional legalization.

One of the most interesting findings of the survey is that members of the business community think there are plenty of Americans available to fill unskilled jobs.

Executives: 16 percent said legal immigration should be increased to fill unskilled jobs; 61 percent said there are plenty of Americans available to do unskilled jobs, employers just need to pay more.
Small Business Owners: 13 percent said increase immigration; 65 percent said plenty of Americans are available.
Union Households: 10 percent said increase immigration; 72 percent said plenty of Americans are available.

Most members of the business community and union households do not feel that illegal immigration is caused by limits on legal immigration, as many of their lobbyists argue; instead, members feel it is due to a lack of enforcement.

Executives: Just 13 percent said illegal immigration is caused by not letting in enough legal immigrants; 75 percent said inadequate enforcement.
Small Business Owners: 10 percent said not enough legal immigration; 79 percent said inadequate enforcement.
Union Households: 13 percent said not enough legal immigration; 74 percent said inadequate enforcement efforts.

In contrast to many businesses group and union leaders, most executives and union members think immigration is too high.

Executives: 63 percent said it is too high; 5 percent said too low; 16 percent said just right.
Small Business Owners: 70 percent said it is too high; 4 percent said too low; 13 percent said just right.
Union Households: 63 percent said immigration is too high; 5 percent said too low; 14 percent said just right.

Discussion: The large divide between union members and their leadership on the immigration issue is not really surprising. Union members and their families want higher wages and better working conditions that would likely come from lower levels of immigration. While union leaders also want improved conditions for workers, they see legalized immigrants as potential new members, giving them a different point of view. The divide between some business lobbying groups and their members of the business community on immigration is perhaps more surprising.

The largest business association representing big companies is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber supports 'earned legal status leading to legal permanent residency' for illegal immigrants. But when given the options of a conditional legalization or enforcement and illegal immigrants going home, executives and small business owners choose enforcement over legalization two and three to one. As for future levels of immigration the Chamber has made clear that, 'We face a larger and larger shortage' of low-skilled workers. The Chamber's president argues that more immigrant workers are needed, 'to fill jobs Americans don't want.' While the idea of improving wages and working conditions to attract American workers does not seem to have occurred to the Chamber, small business owners and executives consider this the best option. Four to one, executives said if employers can't find enough workers they should pay more rather than increase immigration levels. For small business owners it was five to one.

The survey reported here might be surprising to some, but the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) states clearly on its website that, based on its survey of members, 79 percent 'believe undocumented workers should return to their country and seek admission legally.' Their website goes on to state that 'NFIB will not support legislation that contains amnesty for undocumented workers.' Although the Zogby poll discussed here never uses the word 'amnesty,' when asked about conditional legalization, versus enforcement, small business owners and executives are clear – immigration laws should be enforced and illegal immigrants should go home.

Methodology: Zogby International was commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies to conduct an online survey of 42,026 adults. A sampling of Zogby International's online panel, which is representative of the adult population of the United States, was invited to participate. For small business owners, Zogby asked respondents if they owned a small business. Executives are those who indicated they were either a C-level executive, managing partner, managing director, or served on the board of directors. Persons in union households are either a member of a union themselves or live with someone who is a union member. The survey was conducted by Zogby from November 13 to 30, 2009. The margin of error for all likely voters is +/- 0.5 percent. The margin of error for executives is 2 percent, for small business owners 1 percent, and for those in union households 1.2 percent.

The survey is available online at http://www.cis.org/Business-Union-Poll.

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The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent research institution that examines the impact of immigration on the United States.