IMMIGRATION…. Matt Yglesias browses through a Democracy Corps strategy memo about immigration and highlights the chart on the right:

This graph plays to my prejudices. But since I found it in the midst of an analysis designed to play against my prejudices, I find it pretty noteworthy. And, of course, it backs up other surveys indicating that the immigration issue only really plays with a minority of the public. And, of course, it’s now well known that immigration is the biggest concern in areas where immigration is a new phenomenon and my guesstimate is that this leaves the target audience pretty small.

Maybe, but I’m less sure about that. One of the problems with polls is that they rarely measure depth of feeling. So you get polls where 70% of the country wants more money for education, 70% wants universal healthcare, 70% supports the UN, etc. etc. But this doesn’t really tell you much. These are all default “feel good” answers that rarely give you any insight into the way people vote.

But here we have just the opposite. Yes, 31% is a minority, but if the survey is to be believed, that’s 31% who feel pretty damn strongly about the issue and are likely to base their votes on it. That’s a pretty sizable number.

Now, I agree with Matt that this doesn’t necessarily mean that Democrats need to get medieval on immigration. For starters, there’s a downside with other groups, and in any case the fact that lots of people think it’s a big priority doesn’t mean those people are all demanding that we seed the border with tactical nukes. In fact, this is the kind of issue that very well might lend itself to modestly tougher rhetoric combined with moderation on the actual policy side of things. Which, it turns out, is pretty much what DC says:

Voters want to know first, that leaders ‘get it’ — that they share their common sense frustration with the problem and second, that they will act against employers, on the borders and on government programs to get things under control. But most in the broad public hold positive views of the new immigrants and will support an inclusive American response, including a path to citizenship for the responsible, tax-paying and law-abiding — if they believe first that America has acted to get this national problem under control. They really want to hear that Democrats ‘get it’ — because it says a lot about the Democrats’ values and ability to solve real problems.

I don’t really have any problem with this. In fact, on a policy basis, it’s not that far from the mainstream Democratic view: later in the report we learn that employer sanctions and a path to citizenship are popular, whereas deportation and fence-building aren’t. (Cutting back on government benefits gets a mixed response.) Just make sure that everyone knows you “get it” first.