One recent poll says three-quarters of likely voters support enforcing immigration laws in Alabama, while another says that barely a majority of the state supports HB56. One says that more than half of the state “strongly” supports the law, while the other poll says that more than half of the state thinks the law “needs changes”. But both show that a majority of likely Alabama voters are not interested in repeal.
Pulse Opinion Research did the first poll on behalf of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR. That poll was conducted among 500 likely Alabama voters on March 6, and it found that 75 percent of the state supports ”Alabama enforcing laws against illegal immigration” — 52 percent “strongly” support, and 23 percent said “somewhat” — while only 24 percent opposed it. On the issue of whether or not immigration enforcement is a federal matter, the FAIR poll found that 62 percent of respondents said that they “disagree with the Obama administration and states should be able to assist the federal government in immigration enforcement.” Slightly more than a quarter, 28 percent, said they agreed “with the Obama administration that immigration is a federal matter and Alabama should not try to enforce laws against illegal immigration.”
The FAIR poll also found that more than half the state opposes repealing HB56 (40 percent “strongly,” 14 percent “somewhat”) versus 33 percent who support repeal (18 percent “strongly” and 15 percent “somewhat”). A second poll by Anzalone-Liszt Research (ALR), a Democratic polling firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York and Montgomery found similar results. According to the ALR poll, only 13 percent of likely Alabama voters said that the “law is not working, and should be entirely repealed,” while 54 percent said the law needs “minor changes,” and 19 percent said the law needs no changes.
“The bottom line is that both polls indicate that Alabamians think the law is necessary and do not want it repealed,” FAIR media director Ira Mehlman told Weld in an e-mail.
The ALR poll, which was conducted Feb. 1-6 among 500 likely Alabama voters, found that slightly more than half (53 percent) of Republican primary voters thought the law needed changes, including 49 percent of of Tea Partiers (versus 40 percent who wanted to leave HB56 alone). Among independents, 60 percent preferred changes, an ALR press release said.
“I feel confident our numbers are solid, and we don’t dispute a majority of Alabamians favor the law,” ALR pollster Zac McCrary told Weld in an e-mail. “The most meaningful result from our numbers is that Alabamians of all political stripes (Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Tea Party) want the legislature to make changes to the law – an issue the Pulse poll doesn’t address either way.”
Whatever the poll numbers, repeal is not likely to happen. Alabama Sen. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton) filed a bill to repeal HB56, and received assurance from Alabama Senate judiciary committee chair Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) that the bill would get a fair debate. But Beasley said in February that repeal will be tough.
“I know it’s an uphill battle,” Beasley said. Democrats are for repeal, but Republicans aren’t keen on it, Beasley said. “I think that the mood among the Republicans in the Senate is that they want to tweak it and do some amendments and that sort of thing,”
When asked why ALR waited more than a month to release the results of its poll on HB56, McCrary said the immigration questions were part of a larger public opinion survey, and ALR wanted the numbers to make a splash in the Alabama legislature.
“The impetus to release these numbers was to demonstrate that virtually all segments of the Alabama electorate support changes to the immigration law,” McCrary said. “With the potential for the legislature to engage on this issue after they come back from break in early April, we thought this would be an ideal time to release these numbers.”