Tony Leys, Des Moines Register and Tribune, September 15, 2008
The Postville plant was the target of a May 12 raid, in which federal agents arrested nearly 400 workers for allegedly being in the country illegally. Critics complained for months that while three-quarters of the workers were sentenced to prison, company executives had not been charged.
The poll, which was under way last week when the state announced charges against the company’s owner and four managers, found that many Iowans were displeased with the initial outcome of the raid.
Fifty-four percent of respondents said they thought the raid was a step in the wrong direction because only the workers were punished. Thirty-eight percent said they thought the raid was a step in the right direction, and 8 percent said they were unsure.
The poll, conducted for The Des Moines Register by Selzer & Co. Inc. of Des Moines, has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Fifty-four percent of poll participants said the country should find a way to let illegal immigrants stay if they have jobs. Forty percent said such immigrants should be deported. Six percent were unsure. Those are essentially the same results as found in an Iowa Poll in January 2007, when 52 percent said the country should try to find a way to let illegal immigrants stay legally if they have jobs, and 40 percent said such immigrants should be deported.
Political views appeared to play a significant role in opinions on the raid, with 46 percent of Republicans supporting it, compared with 29 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of independents.
The new poll found a significant partisan split on the issue. Fifty-three percent of Republicans said illegal immigrants should be deported, while 28 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of political independents agreed. Among Democrats, 65 percent said immigrants should be allowed to stay if they have jobs, compared with 40 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of independents.
The issue also splits along gender lines, with 60 percent of women saying employed immigrants should be allowed to stay, compared with 48 percent of men. The poll found that younger voters and people with college educations were more likely to favor allowing employed immigrants to stay, but there was little difference in the opinions of higher-income and lower-income Iowans.
The new poll found that Iowans are split on the outlook for a solution to immigration problems. Forty-six percent of respondents say they are more optimistic about the issue over the next few years. Forty-four percent say they are more pessimistic, and 10 percent are unsure.
Sidebar: About the poll
The Iowa Poll, conducted for The Des Moines Register by Selzer & Co. Inc. of Des Moines, is based on interviews with 801 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers contacted households with randomly selected telephone numbers. Percentages based on the full sample may have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Register is prohibited.
The poll, conducted Sept. 8-10, asked the following: Nationally, which do you think is the better course of action on illegal immigration—to work to deport those who are in the country illegally, or to find a way for them to stay legally if they have jobs? Earlier this year, federal agents raided the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, arrested about 400 illegal immigrants, and plans to imprison most of them for five months before deporting them. Do you feel this incident was a step in the right direction of addressing illegal immigration or a step in the wrong direction because only the workers were punished? When it comes to what is happening with immigration in Iowa and when you look to the next few years, are you more optimistic or pessimistic?