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For years, anti-immigrant activists have scared Republican officials into thinking that GOP voters are rabidly anti-immigrant and oppose any candidate who supports common sense reform. The recent ascent of Newt Gingrich, who has weathered attacks from enforcement-only candidate Mitt Romney over his immigration position, demonstrates conclusively that this line of thinking is wrong. Furthermore, several recent polls of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa show that illegal immigration is not a huge issue for Republican voters, but their views on what to do about it are much closer to those of the rest of America than those of the far right. Like Latinos and other Americans, most Republicans support comprehensive reform which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
In December2011, CBS and the New York Times conducted a poll of 640 likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa. The margin of error for the poll is +/-4%.
Immigration not a top issue for caucus-goers. When asked “Which one of the following issues will be the most important in deciding who you will support in the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus?”, only 4% of caucus-goers selected “Illegal immigration.” It was the least popular of the six other issues the poll suggested and the “Something else” option. [New York Times]
Caucus-goers trust Gingrich, Perry on immigration. When asked “Which candidate do you trust most to deal with the issue of illegal immigration?”, 21% of likely caucus-goers selected Newt Gingrich and 20% selected Rick Perry—making the two candidates who have been attacked for their supposedly “soft” immigration stances also the two most trusted by likely caucus-goers. Fifteen percent of the sample named Ron Paul, and 13% named Mitt Romney; other candidates were named by less than 10% of the sample each. [New York Times]
In December 2011, the Washington Post and ABC News conducted a poll of 858 potential Iowa Republican caucus-goers. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4% for the sample of potential caucus-goers, and +/-6% for the sample of likely caucus-goers.
Immigration not a top issue for caucus-goers. Immigration ranked low among the most important issues for caucus-goers, with only 3% of likely participants ranking it as their top issue. By comparison, 38% of likely caucus-goers named “economy and jobs,” 28% named “federal budget deficit,” and 15% named “social issues like abortion and gay marriage.” [Washington Post]
Gingrich’s immigration stance attracts twice as many caucus-goers as it repels. The poll listed a series of controversies that had arisen during the primary campaign, asking respondents if they considered each issue a major factor to support the candidate in question, oppose the candidate, or if it was not a major factor. When asked about “Newt Gingrich’s position on illegal immigration,” which includes a path to legal status for some longtime undocumented immigrants, 34% of potential caucus-goers and 38% of likely caucus-goers said it was a major reason to support Gingrich, while only 16% of potential caucus-goers and 15% of likely caucus-goers said it was a major reason to oppose him. [Washington Post]
Caucus-goers trust Gingrich, Perry on immigration. When caucus-goers were asked to name the candidate they trusted most “to handle immigration issues,” the most popular candidates by far were Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry—two candidates who have been labeled as “soft” on immigration by the rest of the field. Twenty-seven percent of likely caucus-goers named Gingrich, and 18% named Perry. Thirteen percent named Ron Paul, who has an enforcement-only voting record but has expressed discomfort with some hardline enforcement measures such as mandatory E-Verify and a border fence. Mitt Romney, who has launched most of the immigration attacks on his opponents and is currently portraying himself as a hardliner, was named by only 8% of likely caucus-goers. [Washington Post]
In December 2011, Public Policy Polling conducted a poll of 572 likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers. The poll has a margin of error of +/-4.1%.
Only 25% of caucus-goers support mass deportation. When asked “Do you think people who have immigrated to the United States illegally but have lived here 25 years, have paid taxes, and have obeyed the law should be deported or not?”, only 25% of likely caucus-goers said they should be deported, while 44% said they should not be. Twenty-seven percent were unsure. [Public Policy Polling]
Immigration not a top issue for caucus-goers. Immigration was far from a driving force for Republican caucus-goers, as only 3 percent ranked “illegal immigration” as their most important issue when deciding their vote. In comparison, 43 percent named “government spending, reducing the debt,” 27 percent “jobs/economy,” 9 percent “social issues,” and 4 percent “taxes.” [Public Policy Polling]
In November 2011, Iowa-based pollster Selzer & Company conducted a poll of 400 likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers for the Partnership for a New American Economy. The margin of error for the whole sample is +/-4.9%.
Immigration not as critical as other issues to caucus-goers. When asked whether a series of issues were “critical,” “important,” or “somewhat important,” Iowa caucus-goers were much more likely to label economic issues as “critical” than immigration. Forty-six percent of caucus-goers considered “Halting illegal immigration” to be “critical,” while 85% categorized “Reforming government spending and debt” as critical; 70% categorized “Creating jobs in the U.S.” as critical; 64% categorized “Encouraging the creation of new businesses in the U.S.” as critical; and 52% categorized “Reforming taxes” as critical. [Partnership for a New American Economy]
Iowa caucus-goers support measures to increase legal immigration. The poll did not ask about proposals to deal with undocumented immigrants already here, such as a path to citizenship or, alternatively, mass deportation. However, it did ask respondents about a range of proposals to increase legal immigration to the country for entrepreneurs, high-skilled workers, seasonal workers and foreign-born students educated in the U.S. All four of these proposals received the support of at least 60% of caucus-goers. [Partnership for a New American Economy]
For more information, contact Michael Earls at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-261-2388