The latest polling from The Economist and YouGov has just been released, and it shows a slight increase from earlier polling in the percentage of respondents who stated that “immigration” was their key issue. More significantly, however, the importance of immigration has jumped among those who identify as independents and surged among Hispanic respondents.
The most recent poll involved 1,500 adult citizens between February 5 and 8, and mirrored a similar one conducted just over a month before, between January 2 and 4 with the same number of respondents.
Increase in “Immigration” as the Most Important Issue. In the early January polling, 8 percent of respondents identified immigration as their most important issue, tying “national security” in terms of importance at the number-five spot and trailing “healthcare” (17 percent), “climate change and the environment” (16 percent), “jobs and the economy” (14 percent), and “taxes and government spending” (9 percent).
In the most recent poll, immigration rose in importance by one percentage point to 9 percent, tying taxes and spending for fourth place behind healthcare (17 percent), jobs (14 percent), and climate change (14 percent). That was significant but could just reflect shifting concerns.
Hispanics. The internals, however, revealed a more significant shift among Hispanics.
In the January polling, 10 percent of those respondents identified immigration as their top issue, which jumped to 14 percent in the most recent poll, making it the third most important issue to them behind healthcare (23 percent) and jobs (16 percent).
Independents. There was a smaller, but still significant, increase in the importance of immigration among independents, swing voters whose choices in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections could shift the balance of power in Congress. In the early January polling, 9 percent of unaffiliated voters rated immigration as their number-one issue; that increased to 10 percent in the most recent polling.
That may seem like a minor change, but as I will explain below, it appears that more is afoot than simple “noise” in the sample.
Rise in the Number of Americans Who Consider Immigration to be Important Generally. Both polls also asked the question, “How important is immigration to you”, and respondents were given five choices: “Very important”, “somewhat important”, “not very important”, or “unimportant”.
In the early January polling, 41 percent of respondents stated that immigration was very important, with an additional 36 percent describing it as somewhat important — for a total of 77 percent of respondents identifying immigration as important to some degree.
The Economist/YouGov also conducted a poll between January 29 and February 1 (again, 1,500 adult citizens), in which respondents were asked the same question.
In that poll, 45 percent of respondents identified immigration as “very important”, a four-point jump from the earlier poll. Respondents who identified immigration as “somewhat important” fell one point to 35 percent, but overall, immigration as an issue of importance rose three points to 80 percent.
By the most recent poll, 80 percent of respondents, again, stated that immigration was important, but in that poll, those who identified immigration as “very important” rose to 47 percent, a two percentage-point increase in a week and a six-point increase in just over a month.
The respondents who said that immigration was “unimportant” held steady in all three polls (at 5 percent), while those who said that immigration was “not very important” fell from 17 percent to 15 percent to 14 percent across the polls, respectively.
Hispanics. Which again brings me to the internals. In the early January polling, 40 percent of Hispanic respondents stated that immigration was very important to them, a figure that leaped to 49 percent in the January/February poll. By the most recent poll, more than half, 51 percent of Hispanics stated that immigration was very important — an 11 percentage-point surge in just over a month.
The Hispanic responses get even more interesting when those who stated that immigration was “somewhat important” to them get factored in.
In the early January poll, 38 percent of Hispanic respondents identified immigration as somewhat important and 78 percent identified the issue as one of total importance. In the late January/February poll, the percentage who identified immigration as somewhat important actually fell nine points to 29 percent but the percentage seeing it as one of total importance was again 78 percent.
In the latest poll, those who stated that immigration was “somewhat important” rose 13 points to 42 percent, yielding a total of 93 percent of Hispanic respondents who stated that immigration was important to them.
Independents. Then, there are the independents. In the early January poll, 41 percent of them identified immigration as very important and 34 percent as somewhat important, for a total importance of 75 percent.
By the January/February poll, those who stated that immigration was very important rose to 44 percent, while those who stated that immigration was somewhat important dipped one point to 33 percent — yielding total importance at 77 percent.
In the latest poll, 48 percent of independents identified immigration as very important, and 34 percent as somewhat important, for a total importance of 82 percent — a five-point increase in just over a month.
What Does This Mean? Of course, as I have explained before, “immigration” means many things to different people, running the gamut from amnesty on one end of the spectrum to a border shutdown on the other. What it means in this context, and to these voters, is unclear, but what is clear is that immigration is becoming more important to Americans as the midterm elections get closer.
What is also clear is that American voters are displeased with the president’s handling of the issue. In a poll conducted by Politico and Morning Consult between February 5 and 6 of 2,005 registered voters, 56 percent disapproved of Biden’s handling of immigration (43 percent “strongly”), while just 33 percent approved of the president’s performance (10 percent strongly).
Biden didn’t do better among Hispanic respondents in that poll, with a total approval of 37 percent (with just 9 percent “strongly approving”) vs. 45 percent disapproval (25 percent “strongly”).
Biden’s performance was ranked much more poorly by independents than total respondents, however.
Just 26 percent of the unaffiliated approved of the president’s handling of immigration (a meager 6 percent “strongly”). That said, Biden’s disapproval numbers among independents were slightly lower, too: 55 percent disapproved of the president’s performance, 40 percent strongly. The difference was the 19 percent of independents who didn’t know or had no opinion of Biden’s handling of immigration.
The Real Poll is less than Nine Months Away. We are just less than nine months out from the November 2022 elections. Whichever party is better able to frame its vision of immigration will likely see significant benefits when it comes time to elect representatives to the 118th Congress. That said, however, if the border remains in chaos — or worse, devolves further — the president’s fellow partisans may be in for a rough two years.