Originally Published in The Hill
Rafael Bernal - July 23, 2020
President Trump's hard-line positions on immigration are contributing to his lagging poll numbers, according to a poll released Thursday, but the country remains divided on immigration priorities.
The poll on attitudes on immigration shows a stark divide between 57 percent of respondents who said they are most troubled by "cruel and inhumane immigration policies" versus 43 percent who said they are most bothered by "open border immigration policies."
The poll was conducted by Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group and commissioned by three immigrant advocacy groups, FWD.us, The Immigration Hub and America's Voice.
According to the groups' read of the poll, policies like family separation at the border and the administration's attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are driving voters — particularly independents — away from the president.
“The president’s electoral prospects are dimming as more and more Americans take a sledgehammer to his anti-immigrant political playbook. He is employing a losing electoral strategy that aligns with a micro-minority of public attitudes toward immigration,” said Alida Garcia, vice president of advocacy at FWD.us.
The poll's findings on the presidential race were consistent with a majority of other surveys. It showed Trump with the support of 44 percent of respondents, trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, who won 51 percent support.
Forty-three percent said Trump's immigration policies were a reason to vote against him, compared to 39 percent who said the policies were a reason to support him.
Among independents, few of whom saw immigration a decisive factor in their vote, 29 percent said they would skew toward Trump because of immigration while 34 said the issue pushed them away from Trump.
"The segment of GOP voters who are mobilized by xenophobia are outweighed by the backlash effect from the emerging multiracial majority. These results show that nativism has become a political strategy trapped in a whites-only cul-de-sac," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.
While Trump's views on immigration are clear across the board, the poll found that voters still don't have a clear image of Biden's positions on the issue.
Of the poll's respondents, 92 percent said they know "very well" or "somewhat well" where Trump stands on immigration, while only 61 percent said the same of Biden.
According to a memo reviewed by The Hill, the pollster views this split as an opportunity for Biden to further define his position on issues like DACA and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, both of which have consistently polled well among voters.
“President Trump’s 2020 electoral strategy continues to be centered on race-baiting and fear-mongering, but the most crucial voters to persuade in November reject the chaos his immigration policies have caused,” said Tyler Moran, executive director of the Immigration Hub.
“As the Trump campaign continues to go all in on xenophobia and cruelty, Democrats must lean in and articulate a vision for a functioning immigration system or risk leaving pivotal votes on the table," she added.
The poll was conducted from May 27 to June 3 among 1,504 likely voters with a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.