Newswhip analysis and political reporters agree
It’s now clear as crystal. Racial incitement and xenophobia will be the animating force of President Trump’s 2020 re-election effort. Trump believes it was the key to his 2016 victory. However, in 2018, xenophobia backfired badly on the GOP after Trump – and most Republican candidates – closed with ugly and cynical attack ads focused on caravans, criminals and “open border Democrats.” What will happen in 2020?
A newly-released Fox News poll finds that Trump is underwater on immigration:
- By 41% – 54%, voters disapprove of Trump’s performance on immigration.
- By 44% – 52%, voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of border security.
- By 32% – 57%, voters don’t believe that Trump respects racial minorities (down from 41% in 2017, a decline mostly due to a 14% drop among Republicans — 68% vs. 82% in 2017).
- By 46% – 41%, voters prefer Democrats over Republicans on immigration.
- By 60% – 35%, voters are “concerned” rather than “not concerned” about the treatment of “migrants detained on the U.S.-Mexico border” (31% feel “extremely” concerned, the highest level of intensity among the immigration questions).
Axios, “Dems winning immigration messaging fight:”
Negative stories about the Trump administration’s immigration policies are getting much more online attention than stories that appeal to readers with immigration views aligned with the president, according to data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios.
…According to this tracker — which measures reach and engagement — immigration has been the top issue throughout the campaign by far, and President Trump has continuously leaned into it because he sees it as a political winner. This data shows that he’s losing the war of how this issue is being framed online. The stories that are getting the most traction are largely horror accounts and depictions of squalor at detainment facilities near the border.
…Since March 1, among the top 100 articles about immigration, those likely to appeal to critics of the administration generated 23.1 million interactions on social media. Those likely to appeal to readers who support the president’s agenda have generated 11.1 million interactions. Interactions include reactions, comments and shares on Facebook and likes and retweets on Twitter. Among those top 100 articles, 50 appealed to administration critics, 33 had pro-administration sentiment and 17 had no clear leaning or no clear relation to the administration’s immigration policies.
… When we applied this same analysis to the top-performing articles between January and November 2016, we found that anti-immigration stories — those that bolstered Trump’s criticisms of immigration policy — generated 67% more interactions.
Meanwhile, leading observers question the idea that Trump’s racism and xenophobia is working for him:
- Greg Sargent, writing in the Washington Post: “There is a puzzling tendency among pundits to ascribe Trump magical powers on this issue, simply by virtue of his 2016 victory, which has left them in a defensive crouch. But the difference now is that voters have actually seen Trump’s immigration horrors in practice — and are recoiling.”
- David Drucker, a reporter for the conservative Washington Examiner, writes “Trump attacks on ‘the squad’ drive wedge between campaign and critical voters:” “Suburban women and college-educated whites sidelined doubts about Trump and provided support crucial to his victory over Hillary Clinton. But many, fed up with the president’s antics and rhetoric, defected to the Democratic Party in midterm elections two years later. Senior Republican strategists are warning that Trump’s divisive attacks on the four female minority congressional Democrats could permanently exile these key voting blocs, costing the president reelection…”
- New York Times political reporter Alex Burns: “This can’t be said enough. People are conditioned to assume that presidents — and politicians generally — are the best judges of their own political interests. That’s not always the case, and with Trump, often clearly so.”