The perils of polls

Last week, supporters of immigration reform touted a poll of South Dakotans that showed a solid majority supporting efforts in the Senate to reform the immigration system, which would include giving a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people residing in the country illegally. You can read the story I wrote about the issue here.

Note that I didn’t write too much about the poll. I focused instead on the reasons various business leaders would like to see the U.S. allow more immigrants, particularly in agriculture.

That’s because we rarely write stories about specific polls. Unless it’s our poll, that is. That’s because we control the questions and the sample. In other words, we can trust our polls. Not so much with others. Although to be fair, I do enjoy getting the internal polling of political campaigns, because those polls tend to be more accurate than much of the publicly available polling data.

Well, last week it was a poll that shows strong support among South Dakotans for immigration reform. Now today, we get a release showing the opposite: This poll says South Dakotans oppose any reforms that would allow illegal residents to become legal unless the United States first tightens border security.

Take a look at the polls and compare the way they asked their questions.

Here are the Public Policy Polling results. They show support for immigration reform.

And here are the results of the Pulse Opinion Research poll showing the opposite.

Which one would you trust to best capture the mood of South Dakotans on immigration reform?

For me, it’s none of the above.