PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' initial reactions to the U.S. Justice Department lawsuit against Arizona's new illegal immigration law are more negative than positive, by a 50% to 33% margin.
The Justice Department lawsuit asks for a preliminary injunction to prevent the Arizona law from taking effect, arguing that Arizona's law "pre-empts" the federal government's responsibility to deal with immigration issues. President Obama publicly opposes the Arizona legislation, and the lawsuit thus becomes the latest part of a debate that may have ramifications for this fall's midterm elections.
Emotions run high on both sides of the issue. The substantial majority of those in favor and those opposed to the lawsuit say they feel strongly about their position.
The margin of opposition to the lawsuit is highest among those who are following news about the law most closely.
A Republican-controlled Arizona House and Senate passed the law, a Republican governor signed it, and both of the state's Republican U.S. senators (John McCain and Jon Kyl) support it. Official opposition has been centered primarily among Democrats (including President Obama and current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who as governor of Arizona vetoed similar bills passed by the state legislature), and a Democratic administration filed the lawsuit against the Arizona law.
The general public's reaction to the lawsuit reflects this partisan divergence. Almost 8 out of 10 Republicans are opposed, while 56% of Democrats are in favor. Independents tilt toward opposition.
The fact that Americans are more likely to oppose than favor the federal government's lawsuit against Arizona's controversial immigration law is in line with previous polling showing that Americans generally favor the Arizona bill. This means the Obama administration is sailing against the tide of public opinion in its efforts to block the law, although members of Obama's own party certainly support the administration.
The political implications of the lawsuit are difficult to predict with precision at this juncture. Republican leaders will hope that reaction against the lawsuit generates more support for GOP candidates running on an anti-administration platform, while Democrats may hope that the lawsuit solidifies support among Hispanic voters in key congressional districts and states with close Senate and gubernatorial races.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking July 7, 2010, with a random sample of 1,007 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.