Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why Polls May Reflect Bias More Than the Law...

Law Professor Sherrilyn Ifill, University of Maryland, recently cogently reflected:

This new habit of "polling" in place of a focus on legality has become a dangerous habit. If a nationwide poll were conducted in 1953, no doubt a majority of Americans would have supported segregated schools. It's doubtful that many of the provisions of our Bill of Rights would survive an up or down vote in most of the country. That's why we have a Constitution - something that can survive the prejudices, exigencies and ignorance of the day and set the parameters of legality for our country.

Polls like this are irrelevant to the question of whether the Arizona immigration law (and Arizona's latest attack on ethnic studies) is legal or even whether it's offensive to minorities. I shudder to think where this country would be if questions of civil rights and constitutional legality were decided by public opinion poll. This poll only shows how far off the grid many Americans are when they think that a president who advances health care reform is "shredding the Constitution," but have no problem with a state law that gives law enforcement officers blanket discretion to stop individuals anywhere and demand proof of legitimacy.

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