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Battleground Poll Shows Voters View Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Strategy As a Bigger Reason to Vote Against Him Than for Him

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Family separation, ending DACA and wasteful spending on border wall are key Trump liabilities and opportunities for Biden & Democrats


As President Trump joins a town hall in Philadelphia to tackle questions from “undecided” voters, new polling of likely voters across 12 battleground states, conducted for a trio of pro-immigrant advocacy groups, shows that President Trump’s anti-immigrant political strategy is not working. In polling conducted August 28 – September 7 for The Immigration Hub, FWD.us and America’s Voice by Global Strategy Group (GSG), Trump’s policies and positions on his signature issue﹣immigration﹣are losing him more votes than they gain. 

While Trump is attacking Joe Biden in ads and rallies as someone who “supports amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants,” the new poll finds that the attack is not landing. Few voters, and even fewer swing voters, feel this attack raises doubts about voting for Biden, even though many believe the line to be true. According to GSG pollsters, “that’s because voters largely support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

Trump’s policy of family separation remains a major vulnerability for his re-election and Republicans at large. The President’s drive to end DACA and divert government funding to the border wall are also liabilities for Republicans. 

Among the key findings:

  • 43% of voters across battleground states view Trump’s position on immigration as a reason to vote against him, while only 39% of voters see it as a reason to vote for him. Among Independents, just 33% say it is a reason to vote for Trump, while 44% say it is a reason to vote against him. According to Global Strategy Group, this suggests “that Trump’s rhetoric and messaging on immigration is doing little for him outside of his core group of supporters.” 
  • 56% of Independent voters find Trump’s family separation policy raised “major doubts” about voting for Trump; described as “Trump’s practice of separating families and putting kids in cages at the border is cruel, inhumane, and not who we are as Americans”
  • In a series of head-to-head comparisons, Republican arguments are losing to Democratic arguments, including on sanctuary cities, the border wall, financial relief during the pandemic, and citizenship for the undocumented.
  • In the presidential horse race, the newly released poll shows Biden up by 6 points, (50% Biden, 44% Trump). Trump’s overall job approval is underwater by eight points (46% approve/54% disapprove), and among the “swing voters” Trump’s disapproval is significantly more negative (38% approve/58% disapprove).

“The findings reiterate what we know: the swing voter backlash to Trump’s flagrant, anti-immigration rhetoric and policies is a vulnerability that Democrats must seize,” stated Tyler Moran, Executive Director of the Immigration Hub. “Battleground voters, including Pennsylvania voters, have consistently moved away from Trump’s trifecta policies: deportations over citizenship, diverting funds for his border wall over Covid relief, and family separation over fair and humane border policies. Consistent with recent voter model data that showed a large percentage of suburban, white men and women who can be persuaded against Trump with pro-immigration messaging, the issue of immigration is a loser for Trump, but can be a winner for Democrats.”

“Voters are clearly rejecting Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, because they have seen first hand the incredible human and economic damage his policies have caused over the last four years,” said Peter Boogaard, Communications Director at FWD.us. “Not only have his policies and his xenophobic rhetoric hurt his electoral prospects, but his attacks on Vice President Biden’s immigration policies continue to fall flat. Voters are rejecting the President’s policies on immigration, specifically his efforts to separate families and deport DACA recipients, but also because there is strong support for the Vice President’s roadmap to citizenship for immigrants who have been living and working in the country for years.”

“President Trump has forced a choice and the multiracial American majority is choosing unity over division, caring over cruelty and inclusion over exclusion when it comes to immigrants and immigration,” said Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice. “President Trump went hard on immigration in 2018 and it backfired. In 2020 the results of this poll indicate the problem for the President and his campaign is that he is fundamentally out of step with American voters on immigration. His base is sticking with him, by and large, but the rest of us are moving in the opposite direction.”

The results of this poll, as well as an earlier May/June poll of the same states, show that public opinion on the President’s signature issue of immigration works against him.

Numerous national polls have shown that Americans are significantly more pro-immigrant now than when Trump took office or even when his party lost the 2018 midterm election badly, having leaned-in heavily on immigration, xenophobia, sanctuary cities and migrant caravans in the closing weeks. 

  • In a national poll released last week, Pew Research found that 60% of Americans say “the increasing number of newcomers from other countries strengthen American society,” up from 46% in a Pew 2016 poll. 
  • By a 77-19% margin, a Gallup poll released in July found that Americans think immigration is a “good thing” rather than a “bad thing” for the country today, a record level of support compared to 19 times the question was asked by Gallup since 2001.