Cutting to the Reality of Illegal Immigration
Tolerance grows despite Misinformation...
Landscaper, fruit picker, maid at a low budget motel? There was a time not too long ago that most Americans would have said, "You can't pay me enough to do those jobs." And it was largely true. This work has been done instead by a growing and undocumented regimen of illegal immigrants who had come to this country seeking a better wage.
Still, even in boom times, there was resentment against those who had come here illegally. Due largely to misinformation, most Americans were unable to comprehend why someone wouldn't just go through the proper channels if they really wanted to be part of our country. Few were cognizant of the fact that a "proper" application might take ten to fifteen years of applications and bureaucracy to go process--only to be ultimately rejected.
Now times have changed, and with America's economic forecast showing no signs of a quick and easy recovery, many struggling Americans are finding themselves ready and willing to assert their place at the front of the line when it comes to jobs that a year ago they normally wouldn't have given a second thought.
As a piece in The Tennessean, a Nashville newspaper, illustrates:
In February, police were called to the Tennessee Career Center office in Shelbyville to stop a shoving match between some of the hundreds of applicants trying to navigate the formerly first-come, first-served process to apply for jobs at Tyson Foods.
Some American-born workers thought they should get preference over foreign-born workers that a relief agency brought in from Nashville.
Yet, by and large, the friction is minimal. Aside from a few rabble rousers who see an opportunity to extract revenge for the frustration they are feeling, many Americans just need to be exposed to the truth of the matter to understand that immigrants, like themselves, are merely trying to provide a better life for themselves and their families.
"We're not so much trying to change the public's concept of who is American ... but to get people to think, to use reason instead of reacting to immigrants from a place of frustration and fear," said Stephen Fotopulos, the [Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition]'s executive director.
In 2004, 54 percent of Tennesseans polled said if a guest worker program were established, it should include a way for illegal immigrants to attain citizenship. By spring 2008, the figure reached 63 percent.
But Tennesseans are far more likely than the rest of the nation to believe immigration should be limited -- 53 percent compared with 40 percent.
"That's probably the outgrowth of fears about resources," said Ted Nordhaus, a political psychologist, strategist and managing partner at Oakland, Calif.-based American Environics.
Beginning in 2006, while polling people on health-care reform, Nordhaus noticed many wanted to be sure that expanded health care didn't include illegal immigrants.
"There is this notion that illegal immigrants are somehow freeloaders who come to this country to take advantage of public benefits," Nordhaus said.
Were Nordhaus advising the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, he said, he'd tell members to emphasize immigrants' love of this country.
"I would advise them to express much more explicitly that we believe in America, even the American Dream, that we came to America because we always dreamed of being American," he said.
Read the full article here.
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If anybody claiming to be a representative of Environics ever contacts you with an offer promising funds for cashing a bank check, or with an offer to send money to Environics, please immediately call American Environics at 1-510-844-0010 extension 353.
American Environics rarely, if ever, conducts projects that involve cashing checks or sending money electronically.
Do not deposit any check into your bank account. Do not send any money electronically.
American Environics is in contact with the appropriate authorities to identify the perpetrators of these scams.
American Environics and Herndon Alliance Shake Up the Health Care Debate:
An article by Politico profiles the work done by the Herndon Alliance and American Environics to reshape the health care debate in America
(original Politico piece here)
Health care reform is once again on everyone's lips. The current debate began to take shape on the road to the white house, in the primaries. It came from the camps of Obama, Clinton, and even Edwards. The need for health care reform was a hot button issue in the last election, a key signifier that across the board everyone was beginning to recognize the calls of their constituents to fix what many see as a system that was broken. But beyond repair? The question remains.
Previous campaigns to reform health care -- like the Hillary Clinton led initiative in 1993 - 94, and the Dean led one of 2004 -- failed by and large due to the fact that much of the focus was directed at the uninsured, while many of those who already had insurance were left twisting in the wind without a clue as to what their futures may hold with the new plan. As well, the great swath of disinformation coming from the right-wing in regards to what this "socialized" approach to medicine would hold for everyday Americans described scenarios oscillating at a Cold-War pitch not at all unlike those the AMA has been threatening the American public with for years.
Naturally, such disinformation sought only to derail the plan rather than to offer a genuine critique of the messaging strategy. But what it did was provide was a window into the thought process of those unconvinced segments of the American populace. When progressives went back to the table for this new round of debate, those at the Herndon Alliance were concerned with not replicating this prior mistake.
As the Politico piece elaborates:
"They [Herndon] position health care as part of the American dream -- providing peace of mind if their children fall ill, lifting the economic fortunes of the middle class and preventing anyone from losing insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
"Traditionally, those on the left have aimed at the head," Van Vranken said. "And a lot of this stuff is aiming at the heart, trying to get at the values of the American people. ... Everyone is serious about the words they are using and thinking long and hard about what resonates and what works and what doesn't scare the American people."
Those who helped organize Herndon were tired of losing the argument.
The source of much of that change in messaging is American Environics' social values research. American Environcis was hired to define groups of receptive population segments for targeting in upcoming debate about health-care reform.
[American Environics] identified persuadable constituencies, covering 67 percent of the electorate, and figured out what made them tick. "Proper Patriots" want hardworking people to get the health care they deserve. "Marginalized Middle Agers" want coverage they can count on, but are susceptible to attacks because they worry about government competence and dislike change. "Mobile Materialists" value individual choice over employer choice, and definitely favor a private market for insurance.
"By developing a health reform concept and an accompanying offensive narrative that connects with the values and beliefs of American voters while addressing the issues that concern them, we will expand the base of support for reform without losing those who are already with us," Herndon Alliance wrote in a 2007 presentation.
Herndon presented its findings to the campaigns of Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and John Edwards. Deliberate or not, Herndon's footprints were discernable.
Clinton assured voters they could keep their insurance if they liked it, but could also choose from a mix of public and private plans. Obama always stressed the need to rein in insurers. Edwards tapped into polling that showed voters wanted a public insurance option.
Still, the fight has only just begun. As those on the climate side of regulation are beginning to realize, just getting our man into the White House is not a guarantee for any real, substantial change. Those of us fighting to reform America's Health Care have known all along that there are better options for the American people, but at least now we are beginning to understand just how to sell those options in the face of heavily entrenched resistance.
(original Politico piece here)
Opinion Matters: How are Americans Thinking About Economic Recovery? (part 2)
January 15th UPDATE
A few days ago, we put together a memo compiling recent and longitudinal public opinion data on Americans' views toward the economy and deficit spending. Since then, NBC and the WSJ have released a follow up poll to their December 8th survey. Many of the results reproduce earlier findings. Americans are still feeling the pinch, still bracing for a long-term economic slowdown, and still more concerned that the government will overspend than that it will underspend (though see discussion of this finding below.) But the new survey also indicates that Americans' views on the economic recovery may be shifting favorably for Obama.
We noted before that Americans appeared somewhat unsure about how to address the economic crisis, and that they seemed to be taking cues from media and party elders. The latest from NBC/WSJ seems to indicate that the public is gradually shifting towards favoring President-elect Obama's economic recovery plan. Just under half (43%) think it is a good idea. Thirty percent of Americans still are not sure or do not have an opinion about Obama's plan, but only 27% oppose it.
While such numbers do not adequately support the January 15th WSJ headline "Obama, Stimulus Proposals Enjoy Broad Backing in Poll," the headline is nonetheless accurate. Ratings of Obama - on everything from personal style to leadership qualities - were through the roof compared to recent presidents. Many of the planks of his stimulus plan also enjoyed wide support. The most popular recovery proposals - "creating jobs through increasing production of renewable energy and making schools and public buildings more energy efficient," "creating jobs through building or repairing roads and bridges," and "providing tax incentives to businesses that create jobs or invest in new equipment" - all enjoyed the support of 80% or more of the public (89, 85, and 82 percent, respectively). This appears to be a marked shift from NBC/WSJ's December survey. Then, Americans tended to prioritize tax cuts over spending that would lead to job creation. Only a month later, Americans indicated, by almost 2 to 1 (63% to 33%), that they preferred a plan that would focus on job creation through government spending.
Why the change? At least one good hypothesis is that, as
noted earlier, the American public is taking its cues on economic
policy from the media and from a President-elect who is currently about
as popular as ice cream. Even Republicans and Independents from the
leadership to the rank-and-file seem willing to give Obama the benefit
of the doubt. When NBC/WSJ pollsters asked non-Democrats whether or not
Republicans in Congress should compromise with Obama, 68% said they
should play nice - exactly as many are doing already.
The polling report (available here: http://s.wsj.net/public/resources/documents/WSJ_Poll_011409.pdf)
also had some interesting questions that could be explored further or
differently. One question attempting to get at how worried Americans
were that the government would miss the mark on stimulus spending could
probably have been worded better. It asks: "Which of the following
concerns you more? ... that the government will spend too MUCH money to
try to boost the economy and as a result will drive up the budget
deficit, OR... that the government will spend too LITTLE money to try
to boost the economy and as a result the recession will be longer."
Results show that Americans are more concerned about the former than
the latter, but what does that mean? Does it mean that they anticipate
that the government is more likely to overshoot than undershoot? Or
does it mean that they think the consequences of overshooting are more
dire than undershooting? Some combination of the two? The wording also
masks Option 3: that the federal government will spend too LITTLE and
as a result the recession will be longer AND future budget deficits
will be larger as tax revenues decline into the future. Our hunch is
that most Americans are simply predicting - in a fashionably cynical
(and perhaps correct) way - that the government is more likely to
overshoot the magic number than to undershoot it. But if overshooting
is better than undershooting (a possibility not offered by the survey)
their "concern" about overshooting would probably fall off
Another very interesting question on the survey addresses Americans'
estimations of the consequences of deficit spending. The question
reads: "There has been a lot of talk recently about the budget deficit.
In thinking about the budget deficit, which comes closer to your point
of view? Do you think of the budget deficit as being... A real and
important number that has a direct effect on the average citizen, OR...
More of a bookkeeping and governmental number that does not have an
effect on the average citizen?" Americans answered this nearly 2 to 1
in favor of the deficit having a real effect. Here at American
Environics, we are interested in uncovering the cogitations underlying
such an evaluation. On the one hand, Americans' understanding of
economics probably comes from a household ethic of balancing the
checkbook at the end of each month. But on the other, Americans also
carry huge amounts of debt in mortgages, car loans, and student loans -
debts they probably think of more as investments. If people are pushed
to explain their assessments of deficit spending - whether at home or
as a nation - how are they likely to respond? This needs to be explored
further, as do other questions about how we - as individuals and as a
nation - can get our economic house in order and move into a prosperous
In the weeks and months to come, we will continue to follow polling
data on the economic recovery. We will be especially interested in
seeing how support for Obama's plans holds up past the honeymoon phase
of his presidency. Are Americans just giving the popular new guy the
benefit of the doubt for now? Are the chattering classes and media
gradually teaching the public to respect the efficacy and wisdom of
Keynesian stimulus? Or are we, perhaps, witnessing a long period of
crisis leadership and followership during which Obama will be given a
relatively free hand to steer the economy into uncharted waters? Time
will tell. And we will be watching.
Opinion Matters: How are Americans Thinking About Economic Recovery?
January 12, 2009,Introduction
A broad inspection of public opinion data on the state of our economy reveals that Americans are worried about the future, less than optimistic about government's ability to face down the crisis, and ambivalent about Keynesian approaches to recovery. Furthermore, as they imagine future possibilities, they seem to be relying upon traditional partisan and ideological understandings of the economy. Thus, Democrats are more likely to support government spending as a stimulus strategy while Republicans are more likely to support reduced taxation. However, the high incidence of "don't know" and contradictory or otherwise ambivalent responses suggests that Americans may be open to bold leadership.
This report consists of three parts. The first summarizes the current state of public opinion regarding the economic crisis and its implications for Obama's proposed stimulus plan. Here, we draw on surveys by CNN, Politico, Rasmussen, Gallup, and NBC/WSJ. The second part of the report summarizes longitudinal data from the General Social Survey culled together by our research team. These data reflect Americans' longstanding ambivalence regarding public spending and taxation. The third offers some broad recommendations for approaching economic recovery given the current state of public opinion. The Current Situation
Right now, Americans are feeling the pinch. Fully eighty-nine percent of Americans report being dissatisfied with the current economic situation (63% are "very dissatisfied") (Politico). Sixty-eight percent report that they are changing their habits to reduce their overall household spending (Gallup 12/14/2008). Of those who have money in the stock market, 87% report losing money. Almost half of them (47%) say they have "lost a lot of money in the stock market" in the past year (ibid.). According to Rasmussen polling released in early January 2009, half of Americans (50%) say their personal financial situation is getting worse while only 19% say their situation is improving. As a result of the paired housing and financial crises, Americans are much more worried about their ability to "maintain the standard of living [they] enjoy" than they were prior to April 2008 when the housing crisis came to a head (Gallup).
Continue reading "Opinion Matters: How are Americans Thinking About Economic Recovery?" »
2008 Updated Road Map for a Progressive Majority Released
An update to American Environics' previous Roadmap 2005, which contains a summary of how American values have evolved since 2004 and the results of the updated segmentation based upon the 2007 American Values Survey.
In 2005, American Environics created the first Road Map for a Progressive Majority, which used data from Environics' 3SC survey to map the social values of the American electorate to better understand the social values of the various "publics" in the United States. At the time, American Environics was relatively new and the data used to create the initial roadmap was adapted from surveys primarily designed for commercial clients in the United States.
The Nathan Cummings Foundation provided seed funding in 2004 to create the first Road Map by adapting the existing Environics data set to create the initial segmentation of the U.S. population based upon its social values. The insights derived from the research in 2005 created a number of important insights to progressive organizations and groups attempting to advance a progressive agenda in a variety of public policy areas.
The first Road Map provided detailed analysis of the progressive base, constituencies of opportunity, and methods to target both the base and the various swing constituencies. The study looked at the social values, demographics, issue positions, and media consumption habits of voters, and at the time represented the most comprehensive study of social values designed to help progressive organizations solve public policy problems.
By 2007, American Environics undertook the task of designing a new social values survey designed to cover a much larger number of social values related to public policy and social change. AE reduced the number of corporate and commercial social values and, working with social scientists, added a number of academically validated social values directly related to political decision making and attitudes on public policy issues. The result was a survey with more than 800 questions that tracks 130 social values constructs and attitudes on public policy issues from health care and immigration to nuclear proliferation and reproductive health. It also contains detailed questions on demographics, media consumption, and lifestyles. The American Values Survey is today the largest and most comprehensive research instrument available to progressive social change communities.
One of the primary goals of the survey was to create a new, more robust standard political segmentation system that can be used by a wide variety of progressive organizations to gain deep understandings as to the world views of key blocks of voters.
This update to the Road Map for a progressive Majority contains a summary of the new methodology used to gather data for the AVS, a brief summary of how social values have evolved since 2004, and the results of the updated segmentation based upon the 2007 American Values Survey. Also Featured Inside:
-- Case Studies of Earthjustice, the Green Group Project, California Alliance, SCOPE, ACORN, the Herndon Alliance and more
-- Survey Methodology and American Values Survey Core Constructs explained
-- Evolution of American Social Values 2004 - 2007
-- The Political Values Segmentation System, and What it Means for Your Organization
-- America's 15 Distinct Psychographic Segments
Download the entire PDF here
(1281 KB, November 2008)
Defining the Road-Maps of Personality:
Do you consider yourself an agreeable person? Or, when it
comes down to it, are you more neurotic than conscientious? How about
those around you?
Whatever your personality, whether you find yourself
feeling right in sync with your neighbors, or are left feeling like a
man or woman in a high and lonely castle, might not be a question
of whether you-- or they-- are doing something wrong. Objectively speaking, you may just be living in the wrong part of the country.
A few months ago, the results of an intriguing study of
personality types was published in the Boston Globe. Contained within
the results of hundreds of thousands of individual personality surveys
compiled by psychologists Jason Rentfrow, Sam Gosling, and Jeff Porter,
a team of analysts led by Richard Florida noticed an intriguing trend; that is: personality types tend to cluster. All in all: Like-minded individuals seek same for fun and profit.
Psychologists have long established that the human
personality can be broken down into five basic factors: Openness,
Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. These
are what is known as "The Big Five", a key component of American Environics' own American Values Survey.
Each of these factors has been found to affect crucial choices in an
individual's life: from basic life expectancy, marital status,
political ideology, job outcomes and career performance to innovation and creativity. What Florida and his team found was that not only do these personality types tend to cluster together, the country's psycho-geography tended to line-up surprisingly well with its economic geography, as well.
If you're wondering (like I was) which came
first: the people or the predisposition? In other words, is this a case of
like-minded individuals flocking to a certain place, like the San
Francisco Bay Area or New York for those "Open to Experience" types, or
is it the place itself that affects the development of those within it? Well, in the great chicken and egg race, no one can be perfectly sure. But what we can
extrapolate from this is that clustering exists, and that it could
prove incredibly useful for everyone from city planners struggling over
what type of public works projects to push for, to a company's future decision
on where to locate their regional office.
Perhaps somewhere down the line, an American of the future
will plop themselves down in front of a library computer terminal in
Mechanicsburg, Indiana and, utilizing software developed with these
models in mind, base everything from the purchase of their own new home in
Atlanta (because they're an extroverted type), to the selection of their new favorite
sporting events and clubs, on the algorithm's suggestions. And, arguably, he or she
will come up quite satisfied to find themselves in like-minded company.
[Hailing originally from Southern Ohio, I can't personally
understand how my birthplace scored so high on the neurotic level, but
I will confess that I am determined to worry about it, and blow that fact entirely out of
Richard Florida's original column is worth the read in and of itself. You can check it out here, via the Boston Globe:
"Where do all the neurotics live?"
Also check out the full personality maps here.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal also has great coverage on the Renfrow, Gosling and Porter model, plus an expansive state-by-state interactive graphic here.
Cell Phones, Landlines and the 2008 Election
The same kinds of social values that determine whether or not one subscribes to landline telephone service - social values our company tracks like Aversion to Complexity, Technology Anxiety, Tried and True - impacts their decisions as voters. Importantly for 2008 (and beyond), pollsters that treat landline and cell phone only voters the same are making less than accurate predictions.
Traditional public opinion polling has evolved over the years, but since the latter part of the 20th Century how those surveys are conducted hasn't changed all that much. To completely oversimplify, the process is pretty straightforward: get a representative sample of respondents on the telephone, design an instrument that asks good questions, weight the sample when appropriate and run the crosstabs.
While all of those steps are important to ensure accuracy, pollsters tightly hold their secret formulas for weighting samples. It's the industry's version of KFC's 13 original spices. Virtually all pollsters, however, when thinking about weighting do so by weighting a combination of demographic information or partisanship.
In the last few years changes in technology have complicated matters a bit for pollsters. The rise of the use of cell phones and caller ID have skewed the kinds of people that answer survey calls and agree to participate in the research. There has been a tremendous amount of debate in the pollster world, for example, about cell phones. For a long time, cell phones were excluded from most polling research. While many (if not most) pollsters now try to incorporate cell phone numbers into their research, the response rate is often different between landline and cell phone respondents.
Continue reading "Cell Phones, Landlines and the 2008 Election" »