Most American voters support a streamlined guest worker program for American growers and don’t believe migrant farm workers are taking U.S. jobs, a new survey sponsored by Western Growers reveals.
In a March 28 teleconference about the survey, Nassif, president of the Irvine, Calif.-based association, said the results confirm his long-held belief that Americans support the need for a guest worker program for growers.
The survey, conducted Jan. 22-25 with 1,000 likely voters, revealed that only 27% of those surveyed believe that immigrants who work in fields and packginghouses are a cause of unemployment.
Nassif said the idea for a survey came out of a conversation with Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio. Boehner told Nassif that Republicans believe their constituents wouldn’t support a reformed guest worker program.
Nassif disagreed and commissioned a survey by The Tarrance Group.
“The fact is that the initial reaction of American voters, Democrats, Republicans, independents, conservatives — they had a 70% approval rating that we should have a sensible guest worker program for agriculture and they do not believe that these workers take American jobs,” he said.
The survey found 27% were opposed to the described program and 4% were unsure.
In fact, according to the survey, 74% of Republicans favored a guest worker program for agriculture.
Brian Nienaber, vice president at The Tarrance Group, said the results show only slight differences in responses between regions in the U.S.
“You have notably higher (support) in the Central Plains region, with slightly lower in the West and South Central,” he said.
Even with states with high unemployment rate (over 10%), Nienaber said 69% supported a streamlined guest worker program for agriculture.
“You usually see much larger regional breaks on issues depending on what part of the country, but we really don’t see much more than a 4% to 5% difference either way no matter how you slice it.”
Nassif said Western Growers hasn’t proposed or backed specific legislation yet to mirror the guest worker program described in the survey, but he said that is the goal.
“What we will propose as a bill will probably be something closer to what we wish for than what we might end up getting, but we need to get this out in front quickly,” Nassif said.