Poll after poll shows that the Trump Administration’s radicalism on immigration is at odds with the views of the vast majority of Americans on a range of topics. Why is he pursuing a deportation strategy they fundamentally oppose?
Overwhelming and Durable Public Support for Legalization, Not Deportation
- CNN (March 2017): 90% of Americans, including 87% of Republicans, back a path to citizenship when describing requirements (hold a job, speak English and are willing to pay back taxes); when asked what top priority should be for U.S. immigration policy, 60% of Americans back legalization, 26% support a plan “to stop immigrants from entering the U.S. illegally,” and 13% support deporting immigrants here (support for legalization option up from 51% in September 2016); 71%-27% opposition to notion that the government seek to “deport all people currently living in the U.S. illegally” (opposition to mass deportation grew from 66%-30% opposition in September 2016); and by a 58%-40% margin, Americans more worried that “people who haven’t committed serious crimes” will be deported rather than deportation efforts won’t go far enough and “dangerous criminals will remain.”
- Quinnipiac (March 2017): A combined 74% of Americans support either citizenship (63%) or legalization without citizenship (11%) for undocumented immigrants, while only 23% support the deportation option. The poll found that 92% of Democrats, 74% of Independents, and even 51% of Republicans support either citizenship or legalization. Both Americans’ 63% support for citizenship and combined 74% support for “stay” represent the high-water mark for support in the twelve occasions Quinnipiac has asked this poll question since 2012.
- Other recent polls from Pew Research, PRRI, New York Times/CBS, Washington Post/ABC News, CNN, Gallup, McClatchy/Marist, and even Fox News each found that between 72% and 88% of Americans back either citizenship or legalization for undocumented immigrants over deportation.
Border Wall Unpopular and Public Doesn’t Think Mexico Will Pay
- Quinnipiac (March 2017): 64-35% opposition to the border wall
- CNN (February 2017): 60-38% opposition to border wall, while showing that support for building the wall dropped from 52% support in September 2015 to 47% support in September 2016 to the current 38% margin in CNN’s polling.
- Pew Research (February 2017): Americans oppose the border wall by a 62%-35% margin and, by 70-16% margin, Americans think the U.S. would have to pay for the wall rather than Mexico.
- CBS News (January 2017) that Americans oppose the border wall by a 59-37% margin and, despite President Trump’s boasts, 79% of respondents think that American taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the wall, while only 14% thought Mexico would pay, as President Trump claims.
- Fox News (March 2017) also recently found that just 3% of registered voters think that Trump’s top priority should be building a wall.
Americans Support Keeping DACA for Dreamers
- Suffolk/USA Today (March 2017): 3:1 support for keeping DACA in place for DREAMers: “President Obama protected some so-called Dreamers – young people who were brought here illegally to this country as children – from deportation. Should President Trump: Continue to protect them from being deported (63.1%); Remove the special protection from being deported (22.2%); Undecided (14.7%). Per the crosstabs, Republican respondents split 50/50%, D and I respondents strongly pro-DACA.
- Global Strategy Group (November 2016): By a 58%-28% margin, Americans oppose repeal of DACA, with intensity strongly against repealing DACA: 45% of respondents “strongly opposed” to a DACA repeal, while just 19% “strongly support” repealing DACA.
“Sanctuary City” Policies
As a “Fact Checker” analysis from the Washington Post recently assessed, “It’s clear that public opinion on sanctuary policies varies based on how you ask the question, and what exactly you ask about such policies. Criminality is a major factor, so questions that involve ‘crime’ and ‘arrests’ may elicit stronger responses against sanctuary policies.” Specifically, the Post criticized the methodology and question wording of the Harris Poll/Harvard finding that AG Jeff Sessions and Sean Spicer have recently highlighted (noting that 80% of Americans oppose sanctuary cities). Instead, the Post polling editor recommended the wording used in two other recent polls on the topic:
- McClatchy/Marist (February 2017): Despite a misleading introductory description (“Sanctuary City is a term used to describe U.S. cities which do not enforce immigration laws and allow undocumented immigrants to live there and, in many cases, receive services”), 53% of Americans oppose and 42% support “the federal government cutting funds to cities that provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.” Also, the same poll found by an 80%-15% margin, Americans supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
- Fox News (March 2017): After hearing, “Some so-called ‘sanctuary’ cities refuse to assist federal authorities detain and deport illegal immigrants — do you favor or oppose penalizing those cities by taking away their federal funding?” 53% of respondents opposed penalizing these cities and 41% favored such penalties.
2016 Exit Polling
- In the 2016 general election exit polls, Americans backed legalization instead of deportation by a 70-25% margin and opposed Trump’s border wall with Mexico 54-41% (while the national exit polls fail to accurately capture the behavior of Latino voters and other demographic sub-samples of the electorate, the population-wide poll is a useful snapshot).
- During the 2016 primaries, in 18 of the 20 states where Republican primary exit polls asked the question, GOP primary voters supported offering undocumented immigrants “a chance to apply for legal status” instead of deportation by an average margin of 53%-42%.
- Additionally, in 25 of the 26 states with Republican primary or caucus entrance/exit polls, immigration ranked last in the “what is your most important issue priority” test among the four issues tested with Republican primary voters (behind jobs/economy; government spending; and terrorism).