Trump’s Immigration Stance Isn’t Hurting Him

Fawn Johnson, Morning Consult, September 4, 2016

A week that saw Donald Trump solidly embrace his well-known harsh rhetoric on immigration has done little to change his standing among the public. After flirting with, but ultimately rejecting, a “softening” of his previous statements that all unauthorized immigrants must leave the country, the Republican businessman is within the margin of error in a head-to-head matchup with his opponent Hillary Clinton, according to Morning Consult’s new poll.

Among Hispanic voters, the matchup has barely changed since last week, when Trump was actively courting Latino leaders.

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The electorate is also collectively muddled about what it wants on immigration. When asked about various policy ideas that have been floated by both presidential candidates or their surrogates, registered voters are most enthusiastic about local and federal coordination on immigration enforcement and allowing foreign workers to come to the U.S. if they can show that they will contribute to the economy and share American values.

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Speaking of Trump’s border wall, the public is evenly split on the idea, with 46 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed.

Voters are keener on a general idea supported by Democrats and Clinton (and many Republicans in Congress)–allowing noncriminal undocumented immigrants to remain legally in the United States if they meet certain criteria. Well over half of respondents (58 percent) support that proposal, while 33 percent oppose it.

Here’s where the schizophrenia comes in. Almost the same percentage of voters favor Trump’s declaration that all undocumented immigrants must return to their home countries and reapply to come back legally. That proposal is favored by 56 percent of respondents, while 37 percent oppose it.

Without altering the way people can enter the country legally, the “leave and reapply” process that Trump embraces would effectively amount to either a massive roundup of the undocumented population or “self-deportation,” an idea backed by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. Immigrants residing in the country illegally who opted to leave (or were forced to go) would need to wait years, sometimes decades, to return legally.

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Polling over the past 10 years has shown that the public wants to see an end to illegal immigration and a more rational system put in place. How to make that happen has stymied policy-makers in Congress and the advocacy community for years. It’s no wonder the public is divided and, in some cases, confused.

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How voters feel about immigration policies Support Oppose Don’t Know/No Opinion
U.S.-Mexico Border Wall 46% 45% 10%
Allow Foreign Workers 68% 22% 10%
Allow Unauthorized to Stay 58% 33% 9%
Increase Legal Immigration 35% 51% 13%
Decrease Legal Immigration 52% 36% 12%
Deport All Unauthorized 46% 44% 9%
Deport Criminal Unauthorized 64% 25% 11%
End Family Detention 45% 43% 11%
End Private-Sector Detention 43% 36% 22%
Deportation Task Force 59% 28% 13%
Biometric Visa Tracking 59% 18% 22%
Local/Federal Coordination 78% 11% 12%
Deport Visa Overstays 69% 22% 9%
Merit-Based Immigration 48% 38% 15%
Expand Executive Action 35% 57% 9%
Unauthorized Must Leave, Reapply 56% 37% 7%

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