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A new New York Times-CBS poll on immigration reports some surprising numbers: 51 percent of Americans support Arizona's controversial immigration law and 57 percent say immigration laws should be determined by the federal government and not by states. Those positions would seem on the surface to be mutually exclusive. But that's just the beginning of this poll's unusual results. Here's what pundits are concluding about immigration and Americans' unique attitudes.

  • Who Supports Arizona?  CBS News' Brian Montopoli parses the numbers. "Two in three Republicans say the law takes the right approach, along with roughly half of independents. Among Democrats, support for the law stands at 38 percent. Americans living in the South and Midwest are more likely than those in the East or West to support the measure."
  • Respondents Would Like Democrats' Reform Plan  Combining the poll respondents' desire for tough enforcement with the 89% who say U.S. immigration law needs to be "fundamentally" changed or totally "rebuilt," Immigration Impact's Walter Ewing concludes that this is good news for congressional Democrats' reform plan. "Americans are deeply frustrated over unauthorized immigration and the dysfunctional U.S. immigration system that fuels it. Yet most of the respondents in both polls don’t believe that a get-tough, enforcement-only, deport-them-all strategy towards unauthorized immigrants is the best way to move forward. This should be heartening news to advocates of comprehensive immigration reform who understand that smart and targeted immigration enforcement must be coupled with a thorough revamping of our immigration system in order to be effective."
  • Americans Approve Racial Profiling?  Think Progress chief Faiz Shakir sums up, "Majority of Americans approve of Arizona law that they believe will result in racial profiling." The 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."
  • ...Not Really  Pollster's Brendan Nyhan explains that the poll question didn't ask respondents whether they supported racial profiling. The question asked if they believe that Arizona's law will lead to more people of a certain race or ethnic group to be detained. Given that most illegal immigrants are from a handful of Central American states, it's reasonable for anyone to conclude that a law targeting illegal immigrants will result in more Central Americans being detained. "The poll question should have asked if people believe that [a recent provision banning racial profiling] will be upheld in practice -- that's the question in dispute right now."
  • What Happened to Loving Freedom?  Liberal blogger Digby loses it. "Real Americans don little tri-corner hats and carry on about 'freedom' and 'the constitution' but all they know about either one is what they learned at Disneyland. They are paranoid about a non-existent invasion of killer immigrants and are freaking out about a non-existent plan to send gun owners to Fema camps. They threaten to kill census workers who ask them how many times they flush their toilets. ... I give up."

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