Gallup Gains Clicks with Misleading Headline, But Loses the Facts

The headline of the just-released Gallup Poll likely achieved its goal – to get clicks. But it is also misleading and deceptive. In its latest polling release on immigration, Gallup chose to frame the findings with the following headline, “Americans Want More, Not Less, Immigration for First Time

Is the headline true? Not exactly. What the poll found is that for the first time the percentage of Americans who say immigration should be increased outnumbers those who say it should be decreased. However, neither group constitutes anything close to a majority.

The Gallup poll did find that for the first time in the poll’s history that 34 percent of respondents want to see “immigration to the U.S. increased,” compared to 28 percent who want it decreased. But that leaves 36 percent who want levels unchanged.

What the headline, as well as the “key takeaways” section, ignores is that a majority of Americans (64 percent) either want to see immigration levels decrease or to remain unchanged. Nor does the headline provide context. While the number of Americans who back more immigration is at its highest point, it is still just a mere 34 percent, which is hardly indicative of a swing in public opinion toward opening the gates to mass immigration.

Furthermore, a breakdown of the polling data shows who is really driving the increased support. The poll, which was conducted from May 28 to June 4, shows that the boost came from Democrats (a 9-point increase) and political independents (a 7-point increase). This is important because it provides some insight into what is driving their support. President Trump catapulted the issue of immigration into the national spotlight, which has resulted in more focus on the topic.

As Gallup itself later notes, “The rise among Democrats and independents coincides with a period of time when Republican leadership has attempted to limit immigration via physical barriers or changes to visa restrictions and de jure bans of immigrants from over 10 countries.” So, it may be fair to ask whether immigration being a priority for the Trump administration and for some Republicans in Congress had an influence on their views.

The Gallup poll should be read in context of the findings of other recent surveys that show Americans presently back pausing, not increasing, immigration.

  • A Zogby Analytics poll (conducted on behalf of FAIR) taken in 10 battleground states revealed that by about margins of 2 to 1, voters back “reductions in immigration and guest workers admissions.”
  • An April Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found 65 percent of Americans back a temporary pause on immigration until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
  • A poll conducted by USA Today/Ipsos in April showed 79 percent of Americans favor a pause in immigration.

Is too much being made of how the headline was written? No. Reporters and copy editors know that a headline serves as the bait to click, but that they also influence and shape the views of news consumers. And what they also know – and what research backs up – is that most Americans don’t go beyond the headline. Fake news? Maybe not, but it is unquestionably misleading and deceptive.

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