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updated 1/29/2004 5:34:32 PM ET 2004-01-29T22:34:32

Hispanics generally approve of President Bush’s proposal for a national guest worker program, but their opposition grows after they learn its details, a poll released Thursday shows.


The survey found 42 percent of respondents supported Bush’s immigration reform plan, with 20 percent opposed and the remainder undecided. But opinions split 45-45 once respondents were informed that most immigrant workers would have to return home once their legal status expired.


“They seem to think that the proposal is incomplete,” said Sergio Bendixen, who conducted the poll for New California Media, a nationwide coalition of ethnic news organizations.


Bush’s plan would let currently undocumented immigrants work U.S. jobs for up to six years.
Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred a plan that lets foreign workers earn citizenship through their work — a central theme among proposals from members of Congress since Bush announced his plan earlier this month.


Pollsters between Jan. 20-26 conducted a telephone survey of 800 people with Latino surnames who identified themselves as being Hispanic. Such methodology is sometimes used by pollsters but critics say it is not as reliable as drawing a sample through random-digit dialing. The sampling error margin was plus or minus 3 percentage points.


Bush’s guest worker plan was big news in Hispanic communities: Three-quarters of poll respondents said they had heard about it, but nearly two-thirds saw it as an election year attempt to woo Hispanic voters.


The policy debate will likely have implications for the presidential race, in which both parties are courting Hispanics, who account for an increasingly important voting bloc in national elections.


Hispanics were important to Bush’s election in 2000. He garnered just 35 percent of their votes, but Hispanics traditionally have voted more solidly Democratic.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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