Big public policy polls are normally disappointing because they show the public is passionate -- negatively or positively -- about issues they don't seem to understand deeply. In health care reform, the details were much more popular than the three-word headliner issue. In financial regulation, the details are less popular (and much more confusing) than the two-word headliner issue. For both issues, public polling consistently suggested that Americans were more passionate than informed.
In the case of the Arizona immigration law, it seems that Americans do understand the ugly details of the law ... and they still support it. This could be the saddest case of all (via Wonk Room):
A new NYT/CBS poll shows that "the public broadly agrees that the Arizona law will result in racial profiling, overburden local and state law enforcement agencies, and decrease illegal immigrants' willingness to report crimes for fear of deportation." Nevertheless, a slim majority of Americans still supports it:
Who knows whether polls provide an accurate snapshot of public opinion on issues as complex as the interplay between racial profiling, nationalization, security and all the other moral ingredients in immigration. But while one sympathizes with the Fallows position that the fault lies not in Arizona, but in the federal government's failure to address the issue at a national level, you have to wonder what kind of national consensus on naturalization we can reach if 60% of the public finds Arizona's new immigration law about right or too weak.