A recent study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page examining 30 years of opinion surveys and policy decisions by the federal government found that, “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.” The average voter has little influence on government, the study found, but the well-to-do hold tremendous sway.
Has the United States become more of an oligarchy than a democracy?
Perhaps the NYT should ask its second-largest shareholder, Mexican oligarch Carlos Slim?
Not surprisingly, there's no mention of immigration in these discussions, even though that's the most obvious case of Billionaires United, e.g., Rupert Murdoch, Carlos Slim, Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Bill Gates, the Koch Brothers, and Michael Bloomberg using their money and power to demonize opponents of their greed for more immigration to push down Americans' pay -- and, in the case of Slim, to profit exorbitantly off his monopoly power over phone calls between the United States and Mexico.
In other advanced countries, immigration restriction is in the ascendance in the legislatures, but in America we continue to have this bizarre stalemate with the elites pushing amnesty, a pre-2008 policy if there ever was one, against the disorganized, underfunded, demonized, but massive resistance of the public.
Here's an oldie from the Center for Immigration Studies:
By Steven A. Camarota, Roy Beck December 2002
While it has long been suspected that public and elite opinion differ on the issue of immigration, a new poll provides the most compelling evidence yet that there is an enormous gap between the American people and "opinion leaders" on the issue. ...
This Backgrounder is based on the findings of a recent national poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in May through July of this year. The Council is a non-profit policy organization that sponsors polls and events on a host of foreign policy issues. The Council has a long tradition of polling to find differences between the public and opinion leaders.
The polling of the public was based on 2,800 telephone interviews from across the nation. The council also surveyed nearly 400 opinion leaders, including members of Congress, the administration, and leaders of church groups, business executives, union leaders, journalists, academics, and leaders of major interest groups.
The results of the survey indicate that the gap between the opinions of the American people on immigration and those of their leaders is enormous. The poll found that 60 percent of the public regards the present level of immigration to be a "critical threat to the vital interests of the United States," compared to only 14 percent of the nation’s leadership – a 46 percentage point gap.
The current gap is even wider than that found in 1998, when 55 percent of the public viewed immigration as a "critical threat," compared to 18 percent of opinion leaders – a 37 percentage point gap.
The poll results indicate that there is no other foreign policy-related issue on which the American people and their leaders disagreed more profoundly than immigration. Even on such divisive issues as globalization or strengthening the United Nations, the public and the elite are much closer together than they are on immigration.
When asked a specific question about whether legal immigration should be reduced, kept the same, or increased, 55 percent of the public said it should be reduced, and 27 percent said it should remain the same. In contrast, only 18 percent of opinion leaders said it should be reduced and 60 percent said it should remain the same. There was no other issue-specific question on which the public and elites differed more widely.
The enormous difference between elite and public opinion can also be seen on the issue of illegal immigration. The survey found that 70 percent of the public said that reducing illegal immigration should be a "very important" foreign-policy goal of the United States, compared to only 22 percent of elites.
Also with respect to illegal immigration, when the public was asked to rank the biggest foreign policy problems, the public ranked illegal immigration sixth, while elites ranked it 26th.
The very large difference between elite and public opinion explains the current political stalemate on immigration. For example, supporters of an amnesty for illegal immigrants have broad elite support ranging from religious to business and union leaders. Normally elite support of this kind would lead to policy changes, but on this issue public opposition is so strong that it creates a political stalemate.