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ICYMI: Pollster Stan Greenberg on Why Trump’s Xenophobia May Backfire Again in 2020

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New Conventional Wisdom Now Aligns with Previous AV Polling & Analysis

In a provocative New York Times op-ed, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg marshals public opinion data and the recent lessons from the 2018 midterms to make the case that the Republican Party is headed toward defeat in 2020. The piece includes a detailed exploration of the politics and public opinion around immigration and Greenberg highlights two points that America’s Voice has been stressing since 2017 – namely, that Trump’s immigration fear-mongering backfired hugely in the 2017 off-year election in Virginia and the all-important 2018 midterms and that Americans are growing more pro-immigrant during the Trump presidency. In short, the more they hear from Trump and Republicans on immigration, the more the American people are moving in the opposite direction.

The analysis is especially interesting given Greenberg’s reputation as a pollster with his finger on the pulse of the white working class voter, going back to the Reagan era. See below for key immigration-related excerpts from Stan Greenberg’s new op-ed, followed by several relevant resources from America’s Voice:

In the run-up to the 2018 election, Mr. Trump continued to call for the building of a wall and even sent troops to the border to protect Americans from the caravans that were supposedly escorting Muslim terrorists. Republican ad makers created Willie-Horton-type spots that featured undocumented immigrants who murdered Americans.

But Mr. Trump playing the immigrant card as president has made Americans more favorable to immigration and immigrants — almost two-thirds now say that immigration benefits the country. His attack on immigrants has created a growing consciousness that we are a country of immigrants.

Like it or not in Mr. Trump’s America, the Republicans will now be the anti-immigrant party and the Democrats the pro-immigrant party, confidently associated with America’s multiculturalism.

Few of those who worry that Mr. Trump’s exploitation of race and immigration will carry the day in 2020 noticed that his party badly lost an off-year election that Mr. Trump centered on immigration. Democrats won the House popular vote by more than eight percentage points. Republicans gained Senate seats mainly in deep Red states where, generally speaking, Republicans ran well behind Mr. Trump’s performance two years earlier.

This year, Mr. Trump extended his war on immigrants and immigration. Yet the percentage of Americans who say that immigrants strengthen the country and are not a burden has risen from 54 percent after the 2018 election to 65 percent now. This view is held strongly by 52 percent. Only 26 percent agree with the president that immigrants are a burden because they are accused of taking jobs, housing and health care.

American voters will not disappoint us again. Mr. Trump’s frantic efforts on immigration will not work. Taken as a whole, the voters want to affirm who we are as a country — and to marginalize a Republican Party that stands outside the mainstream on so much of our recent history, on civil rights and immigration in particular.

…When you combine Mr. Trump pushing moderates out of the Republican Party and the changing attitudes his rhetoric and policies have brought about with the Democrats’ pro-government fervor, you have a recipe for transformation. Democrats should be looking not just to defeat Donald Trump and the Republican Party, but to get to work building a bold era of progressive reform.

For more on the lessons of immigration politics in the Trump era and what it means for 2020, read several recent pieces from America’s Voice:


  • Read America’s Voice on the lessons from the 2018 midterms, when President Trump and Stephen Miller focused near-exclusively on immigration and the migrant caravan down the homestretch of the 2018 midterms, but their xenophobia backfired (see here for a roundup of examples and evidence, including the details of the American Election Eve poll of competitive House districts).
  • Last week, America’s Voice assessed the implications of new polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Cook Political Report, which finds that the immigration issue helps Democrats and hurts Trump with 2020 swing voters.

  • Read a recent USA Today op-ed from America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry, in which he wrote: “[President Trump’s] obsession with immigration fires up his core supporters but backfires badly with everyone else … He wants to get voters focused on blaming ‘the other’ so he can keep them from focusing on kitchen-table issues — health care, retirement security, fair wages and more — that favor Democrats … This is nothing less than the strategic use of racism in the service of plutocracy. Democrats need not fear this fight with Trump. They need to take it to him.”