No Surprise! Party Identification and Illegal Immigration

We welcome a guest post by North Carolina State University’s Michael Cobb. 

In a recent WonkBlog post, Dan Hopkins argues that there is a surprising level of bipartisan agreement about legal immigration. Here, I tackle a different dimension to immigration—illegal immigration. And, when it comes to policy proposals for addressing illegal immigration, partisanship still very much drives preferences. Consequently, Republican leaders in Congress are caught in a bind. They are trapped between needing to moderate their positions about illegal immigration to court Hispanic voters and their inability to do so without alienating their supporters.

In the 2012 presidential election, Romney lost decisively among Hispanic voters, earning just 27% of their votes. That showing was actually worse than when McCain captured 31% of the Hispanic vote in 2008. Despite the new-found media attention to this demographic problem, Republicans have not been blind to this emerging demographic dilemma. Back in April, Frank Luntz penned an article in which he claimed that Republicans’ preference for deportation was a myth. According to Luntz, “only a tiny fraction would support a shortsighted (and fiscally unfeasible) blanket policy of deporting the illegal immigrants already here.”

Fortunately, survey data exists to examine Luntz’ claim. The results not only reveal a consistently large partisan gap about how to manage illegal immigration, but also a solid Republican preference for deportation. To start, a CNN/ORC poll conducted July 16-21, 2010 asked, “What should be the main focus of the U.S. government in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration—developing a plan that would allow illegal immigrants who have jobs to become legal U.S. residents, or developing a plan for stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. and for deporting those already here?” Although the question wording fails to isolate deportation as a single option, answers nevertheless reveal fundamentally different priorities among partisans. Three-quarters of Republicans (73%) answered that deportation and stopping the flow should be our priority. Meanwhile, just 39% of Democrats expressed that sentiment.

A TNS Opinion poll for Transatlantic Trends in 2011 asked a similar question. Although it didn’t use the word “deportation,” it isolated the effective equivalent of “requiring illegal immigrants to be returned to their home country.” Similarly, 66% of Republicans, but just 34% of Democrats, said illegal immigrants must be returned home. Furthermore, another question finds that 7 in 10 Republicans don’t believe citizenship should be granted to children of illegal immigrants who are born here (just 36% of Democrats agreed). In light of these data, Governor Romney’s attacks on Gov. Rick Perry as being soft on immigration during the GOP primary make more sense.

To further establish the breadth of the partisan divide, the CNN/ORC survey reveals that 75% of Republicans and just 30% of Democrats favor the immigration law passed in Arizona that was widely condemned by Hispanic interest groups. Likewise, a majority of Republicans support building a 700-mile fence along the border with Mexico (58%), while a majority of Democrats opposes that plan (61%). Finally, the intensity of attitudes also varies. When asked how the number of illegal immigrants made respondents feel, twice as many Republicans as Democrats reported feeling “angry” (32% versus 16%).

Given the immediate discussion of demographics following Romney’s loss, perhaps attitudes changed in response to leading Republicans’ changing rhetoric? I was able to find two surveys about illegal immigration taken right after the election. In short, the partisan gap remains large.

The Congressional Connection Poll from Nov. 8–11 asked, “Some experts believe there are as many as 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States today. Which ONE of the following steps, if any, do you think the government should take to deal with illegal immigrants?” The “harshest” option, “Deport all illegal immigrants, no matter how long they have been in the U.S,” was supported by 29% of Republicans, but only 5% of Democrats. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from Nov. 7-11 asked, “Do you support or oppose a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?” While a solid majority of Democrats supported a path to citizenship (71%), 60% of Republicans opposed that option.

One problem I encountered is that very few survey firms ask similarly worded questions, and their answer options are sometimes convoluted. Yet, even these data demonstrate how deeply divided Americans are about illegal immigration. And if illegal immigration is the pivotal dimension to overall immigration reform, which I think it is, this only underscores the difficult situation Republican leaders find themselves in. Even if the Republican office holders don’t truly favor harsh policies, their voters certainly do.

2 Responses to No Surprise! Party Identification and Illegal Immigration

  1. Wonks Anonymous November 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    There don’t appear to be many party elites taking the Josh Barro line that what really drives away Hispanics (and other low income voters) is their economic policies.

  2. Dave Francis December 6, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    Former President George Bush doesn’t reside in the real world, or do most of the hierarchy of elected politicians who govern us. George Bush is stating that we should approach immigration “With a benevolent Spirit”. But he lives in his own Shangri La and is not menaced by illegal alien drunk drivers, criminals, drug peddlers and a reciprocating cost of supporting these people? A large majority of presidents, elected legislators, and judges are isolated from the illegal alien invasion as they live in gated communities and are never have to look for a job. Many of the illegal alien hordes don’t come here to begin a new business or new ideas… they come here with their hand open saying “Gimme” or demanding the same rights as citizens? Building contractors, who once earned a good living, must contend with companies who use cheap labor and outbid the honest businesses. This is especially so where immigration regulations are broken every day, because these building entities must compete against each other, using an illegal workforce and making huge profits for owner? It is the same with unions who are also benefiting from a wide array of unauthorized labor and being illegal ask no questions about the subscription dues.

    It’s not the new law associated with the “Dreamers Act” but the chain migration that will follow its progress. Chain Migration points to the young people originally illegally coming to America with their parents, and then sponsoring their relatives. The issue with that is that the sponsor must sign an affidavit that they will financially support the family members that come into the country. So if it’s anything like the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) finding passage, those who gained a path to citizenship in the millions and then sponsored Mom and Pop and others, dropped their promise and financial cost laid on the taxpayers once again in supporting their elderly family members. Do you realize if some states issue Dream kids driver’s licenses; they will be able to chauffer illegal family members around their community and even take them to deceitful places of work. The 1986 the law was sterilized from the beginning anyway and millions more free welfare treat hunters gained entrance and the whole thing was a Carnival of errors. The politicians involved in this charade never funded properly a secure fence, or interior enforcement as special interest groups had already declared the ultimatum, which was in fact do next to nothing? Underfunded, the back door remained open and the unconcerned employers got cheap labor and to hell with the working American stiff. Since then we have had a poorly guarded border and the brave undermanned U.S. border Patrol men and women, threatened by drug cartels had to deal with the mess. I knew from the very inception of immigration law, that there was no intention to hold back the hordes of illegal foreigners, when the crime of entry didn’t add up to a class one felony. NOT ONLY ARE BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES IN SOME WAY OR OTHER PANDERING TO THE ILLEGAL ALIENS, BUT NOW THEY WANT TO RE-ACCESS OUR CITIZENS PRIVILEGES, BY STATES LIKE ILLINOIS GIVING OUT DRIVERS LICENSES? What George Bush talks about is LEGAL immigrants, not illegal alien paupers that benefit from our welfare state? Many cities need a bailout like Detroit, with millions of Americans living on the poverty line, but both political groups are still catering to illegal aliens have a precedence over citizens and LEGAL IMMIGRANTS?

    You will not get any true honest news support from the press or airwaves, as it full of propaganda about the true meaning illegal immigration. Americans have been buttered up for years by the lying establishment and have shown no real intentions of enacting mandatory E-Verify, known as the “Legal Workforce Bill” to at least stop the massive influx of illegal aliens looking for work. Another deciding factor that makes literal sense is passing The “Birthright Citizenship Bill”. A quick amendment that would stop pregnant women from conceiving a child to procure automatic citizenship, that once again is unfair to the U.S. taxpayer. Only the babies of a U.S. citizen would have the merit to gain citizenship and not the three or four babies, which alien mothers require us to support. These are bills that are sitting gathering dust and neither Political party has the gut to pass. Not that there is any chance of being read on the House floor or in Sen. Harry Reid’s Senate, as he doesn’t allow them to gain Cloture? If these mostly bunch of old decrepit lawmakers as Reid, cannot pass a reasonable budget in four years, what chance do two rational bills have of passing to discourage the influx of impoverished illegal migrants or immigrants, whether from across the borders or flying into this country masquerading as visitors?

    We, the American people who suffer this costly indignity, not the Politian’s, not the employers, but the taxpayer. It’s inevitable that honest people are going to get skewered by those in power at the time and nothing will ever change while the same incumbents and robots of big business, unions and radical ethnic groups hold the reins of government. Nearly all 50 states are financially suffering because most legislators have ignored the major problems, except for a few that have placed their feet firmly on the ground. As little as 5 states are openly against the Democratic progressives who strongly believe that a path to citizenship for all illegal aliens will materialize as votes in coming years in their form of Socialist behavior. That it’s been seen in Socialist run nations that the more government gives, the more is expected and eventually turns into riots and civil disobedience and obscene deficits. Today I learned that President Obama has borrowed money, then all the previous presidents combined? I do not think Mitt Romney was wrong about fighting illegal immigration, but he should have been more direct by telling the people about the enormous cost. I know the TEA PARTY believes that millions of non citizens voted in the election, proven of the fact that the elections were rigged outside of states committed to the voters showing photo ID, who ran a fair and equitable voting.