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Contact:
Chris Currie
Phone: 202-785-0017, ext. 342
E-mail: c.currie@ieee.org

IEEE-USA/HARRIS POLL: U.S. PUBLIC
OVERWHELMINGLY OPPOSED TO
H-1B VISA EXPANSION

WASHINGTON, September 16, 1998 -- More than four out of five Americans oppose substantially increasing H-1B visa limits, according to a survey released today by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - USA (IEEE-USA) and conducted by Louis Harris & Associates Inc. The U.S. House of Representatives will vote tomorrow on H.R. 3736, a bill that would raise by 190,000 the number of temporary foreign high-tech guest-workers allowed into the United States over the next four years.

According to the IEEE-USA/Harris Poll, 82 percent of a national cross-section of 1,000 adults opposed Congress "allowing U.S. companies to sponsor 190,000 additional foreign technical workers, as temporary employees for up to six years." Only 16 percent were in favor, while 2 percent were unsure.

Respondents, asked their level of agreement with several assertions made by proponents and opponents of H-1B expansion, overwhelmingly agreed with concerns expressed by H.R. 3736 opponents -- including IEEE-USA -- about the effects of substantially increasing visa levels. The statement, "lower wages paid to temporary foreign workers harm U.S. professional wages," was strongly or mostly agreed to by 75 percent of those polled, while only 23 percent disagreed. In addition, 77 percent versus 22 percent agreed that "allowing companies to hire additional temporary foreign professionals reduces employment opportunities for U.S. technical workers." And a whopping 86 percent -- with just 13 percent in disagreement -- concurred that "U.S. companies should train U.S. workers to perform jobs in some technical fields, even if it is faster and less expensive to fill the jobs with the foreign professionals."

Respondents were not swayed by most of the proponents' assertions. A majority -- 66 percent versus 31 percent -- disagreed that "without adding additional temporary foreign workers the United States might be forced to transfer work overseas." Furthermore, 61 percent disagreed with the statement that "without adding additional temporary foreign workers U.S. companies might fall behind international competitors," while only 36 percent agreed. Only one argument -- that "there is a shortage of technical professionals in the United States" -- achieved a plurality of agreement, with 51 percent of respondents saying they "strongly agree" or "mostly agree" and 41 percent indicating they strongly or mostly disagree.

The poll also revealed a broad public lack of awareness of H-1B legislation. Only 14 percent were "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with the pending bill, while 86 percent were "not very familiar" or "not at all familiar."

According to IEEE-USA President John R. Reinert, "Special-interest groups have been trying to push this bill through using legions of lobbyists and big campaign contributions. But now it's clear that the American public is adamantly against a vast expansion of the high-tech guest-worker program. Members of Congress might want to keep this in mind as voters prepare to head to the polls in several short weeks."

IEEE-USA promotes the careers and public-policy interests of the 220,000 U.S. members of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc., the world's largest technical professional society.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: For survey charts and raw data or for an interview with IEEE-USA President John R. Reinert or President-Elect Paul J. Kostek, please contact Chris Currie at 202-785-0017, ext. 342, 301-887-1901 (h), or c.currie@ieee.org.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.--United States of America
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Washington, DC 20036-5104
Phone: 202-785-0017, Fax: 202-785-0835.


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Last Updated: Sept. 16, 1998