Latest CNN Poll Contains More Bad Immigration News for the President

Biden’s immigration policies have never been popular, but are becoming more unpopular

By Andrew R. Arthur on December 17, 2021

Between December 8 and 12, survey firm SSRS conducted a poll for CNN of 1,256 U.S. adults, which was released on December 15. Subsequent CNN reporting focused on that poll’s “gloomy” take on the U.S. economy and respondents’ concerns about the supply chain and rising inflation, but President Biden received his worst marks on immigration. It shows the president’s immigration policies, which have never been popular, are becoming even less so.

There are some bright spots — of sorts — for Biden in that poll. His overall approval rating (49 percent) has increased one percentage point over similar polling conducted between November 1 and 4, and his disapproval rating fell one point as well, to 51 percent from 52 percent the month before.

That said, approval of the way that Biden is handling the Covid-19 pandemic fell from similar polling between August 3 and September 7. In the latest poll, 54 percent approve of the way that the president is handling the pandemic, with 45 percent disapproving. In the earlier poll, the results were 56 percent approval versus 44 percent disapproval.

Biden’s handling of the pandemic is the only subject area in five that he is above water in that poll, however. For example, 47 percent of those polled approved of Biden’s handling of foreign affairs, compared to 52 percent who disapprove.

When it comes to the job that Biden is doing on the economy, 45 percent of respondents approved and 54 percent disapproved. A similar 45-54 split was recorded on Biden’s performance in “helping the middle class”.

Then, there was immigration, where the president received his lowest scores.

Only 40 percent of respondents approved of the job Biden is doing in handling immigration, compared to 59 percent who disapproved. I will get into the internals of those polls below, but Biden’s historical polling on this issue compared to this most recent poll merits notice.

Disapproval of Biden’s Immigration Performance Has Always Been High but Is Getting Worse. The same question was asked in polling between March 3 and 8, and between April 21 and 26.

Even in the March polling, Biden received poor grades for the job he is doing on immigration, with 43 percent approval vs. 49 percent disapproval. By April, he fared even worse, with a 41 percent approval rating compared to 43 percent who disapproved.

In other words, Biden’s immigration policies are unpopular, but they have never been popular and were not much more popular at the beginning of his term.

One big difference among the polls was the number of respondents who had no opinion: March, 8 percent; April, 6 percent. By the December poll, those who had no opinion dropped to 1 percent. In other words, when people form an opinion on Biden’s immigration policies, that opinion is likely to be unfavorable.

Now, to the internals on the most recent poll. The way that those internals are framed is as interesting as the results themselves.

Higher Earners and Men Give Biden Lower Marks on Immigration. Approval of the job Biden is doing in handling immigration was lower among men (37 percent) than women (41 percent). Consequently, disapproval was also higher among males (61 percent) than females (58 percent). Men were also slightly more likely than women to have no opinion: 2 percent vs. 1 percent.

Interestingly, the better off that respondents were, the less that they approved of Biden’s performance on immigration. Among those earning less than $50,000, approval ran at 42 percent and disapproval at 55 percent. Approval decreased among respondents who make more than $50,000 a year to 37 percent, and disapproval surged, to 63 percent.

Independents More Likely to Have an Opinion, and that Opinion Is Unfavorable. Most troubling for the president and his fellow Democrats with the 2022 mid-term elections less than 11 months away is the fact that Biden is way underwater among Independent swing voters whose support is especially important during elections that have no national figure at the top of the ballot.

Just 37 percent of the politically unaligned approved of the job that the president is doing on immigration, while a whopping 63 percent disapproved. They are also particularly on top of the issue: The percentage of Independents who had no opinion was so low that it was not even recorded.

Biden’s Immigration Performance Viewed Slightly More Unfavorably by Registered Voters. Keep in mind also that the SSRS/CNN poll was of adults, not voters. Biden’s performance among registered voters on immigration was viewed more dimly than among total respondents, but the results were close: Just 39 percent of voters approved of the president’s handling of immigration, compared to 60 percent who disapproved (1 percent had no opinion).

Conflated Breakdown in Internals, Except for Covid-19 Vaccination Status. As an aside, I note that the way that SSRS/CNN broke down the internals differs significantly from the way that most polls do it. For example, rather than results from Black and Hispanic Americans, as is the norm, both were lumped under the heading “people of color” (which may or may not include Asian Americans).

And, as noted, there were just two income levels listed: Those making $50,000 or less and those making more than $50,000. Most polling breaks income levels into three: respondents making less than $50,000; those making $50,000 to $100,000; and those bringing home $100,000 or more.

That conflation of respondents based on race and income, however, did not carry over to a separate category: Covid vaccination status. The SSRS/CNN poll had four categories of vaccination status: total vaccinated; those vaccinated who had received a booster shot; those vaccinated who had not received a booster shot; and those who were never vaccinated.

Honestly, I am rather confused by all the vaccination “discussions” (read: “debates”), but this breakdown raises the question of whether the point of this particular exercise is to determine what respondents think about various issues or to assess what Americans of various vaccination statuses think about those issues in an attempt to make vaccination status a proxy for respondents’ opinions.

In any event, however, the more Moderna/J&J/Pfizer shots you have received the more you approve of the job that the president is doing in handling immigration.

Those who have been vaccinated and boosted give Biden the highest marks (52 percent approval vs. 48 percent disapproval), while those who have not been vaccinated at all give him the lowest — just 15 percent approve of the way that Biden is handling, while 82 percent disapprove. But I digress.

Conclusion. The key takeaway from this poll is that the president’s handling of immigration policies is unpopular, but it has been unpopular since the earliest days of his presidency. And that the more Americans who form an opinion about those policies, the more likely that opinion is to be unfavorable, especially among the most important part of the electorate: Independent voters.