Nine months into the Biden administration, and just over a year out from the 2022 midterm elections, polls show that immigration is not a favorable subject for the president. Here are some recent ones from mainstream polling institutions, with emphasis on key voting blocs, including women, Independents, and Hispanics.
Quinnipiac University conducted a poll between October 15 and 18 of 1,342 adults nationwide, with results posted on October 19.
Respondents were asked to name the “most urgent issue facing the country today” from a list of 10 possible topics (Covid-19, the economy, climate change, immigration, health care, national security, election laws, foreign policy, racial inequality, and the federal debt).
Immigration was the third-ranked issue, at 14 percent, trailing just the economy (19 percent) and Covid-19 (16 percent).
That poll was skewed somewhat by the large number of Republicans who named immigration as the most urgent issue, with 28 percent of them picking it. That said, immigration was the second leading issue for Independents, crucial swing voters in midterm elections: At 13 percent, it tied with Covid-19, and trailed the economy (21 percent).
Interestingly, female respondents were more likely to pick immigration as the most urgent issue, again with 14 percent, compared to 13 percent of male respondents who chose it. Among women, Covid-19 and the economy tied for the top spot (at 17 percent).
Quinnipiac also asked a direct question about the border wall.
Forty-six percent of registered voters support building a wall along the Southwest border (45 percent of total respondents), while 49 percent of total respondents and registered voters oppose construction. That might seem like tepid support for border barriers (in most places, “the wall” is actually a fence), but Quinnipiac noted:
That is the lowest level of opposition to building a wall along the border with Mexico since November 2016 when the question was first asked by the Quinnipiac University Poll. The highest percentage of voters opposed to building a wall along the border with Mexico was 64 percent in 2017.
An earlier October Quinnipiac poll (conducted from October 1 to 4 of 1,326 adults, published on October 6) asked similarly direct questions about the president’s handling of immigration in general and the Southwest border in particular, and those polls were equally revealing.
Just 25 percent approved of the president’s handling of immigration issues, compared to 65 percent who disapproved. Independent voters were more dour on the president’s immigration performance than respondents as a whole: 22 percent of Independents approved, compared to 70 percent who disapproved.
Those results tracked the president’s approval of his handling of “the situation at the Mexican border”. On that one, the president pulled a 23 percent approval rating, compared to 67 percent of respondents who disapproved.
Again, Independents gave the president lower marks on his handling of the border than respondents as a whole. Biden enjoyed the approval of just 18 percent of Independents on of the issue, compared to 73 percent disapproval.
I will discuss the responses of Hispanic voters in that poll below, but as a teaser: They don’t bode well for the president.
Opinion outlet Morning Consult conducted a poll for Capitol Hill tip sheet Politico between October 16 and 18 of 1,998 registered voters.
Respondents were asked about their level of concern regarding illegal immigration at the Southwest border. Almost half, 47 percent, stated that they were “very concerned”, while an additional 26 percent explained that they were “somewhat concerned”, 73 percent in total.
By contrast, just 19 percent stated that they were “not too concerned”, and 8 percent weren’t concerned at all (27 percent in total).
Again, the level of concern among female respondents was higher than for males, at least in the “very concerned” group: 48 percent of women were very concerned, compared to 46 percent of men. The opposite two-point differential separated women (25 percent) and men (27 percent) among the “somewhat concerned” crowd.
Independents expressed less concern, but only somewhat. Of that group, 41 percent stated that they were “very concerned”, but 29 percent asserted that they were “somewhat concerned” about illegal immigration at the Southwest border (70 percent in total).
Voters in rural areas were more likely to express concern than their more urban and suburban fellows: 57 percent were “very concerned” about illegal immigration at the Southwest border, while an additional 22 percent were “somewhat concerned”.
That said, the sentiments of suburban voters were not far off the total: 46 percent were “very concerned”, while an additional 26 percent were “somewhat concerned”, for a 72 percent total.
Urban voters, however, were not in that much disagreement with the rest: 40 percent of them were “very concerned” and 30 percent “somewhat concerned” (70 percent in total), with 20 percent in the “not very concerned” camp and 10 percent who were “not concerned at all” (30 percent in total).
Suburban voters and females helped deliver the 2020 election to President Biden, and so these are not good numbers for the president or his fellow Democrats.
Speaking of the president, Morning Consult/Politico also asked respondents whether they approved or disapproved of how Biden was handling immigration. Those numbers reflect poorly on the current occupant of the White House, as well.
Just 35 percent of registered voters approved of the president’s handling of immigration, and then just a weak 12 percent strongly so.
On the other hand, 42 percent of respondents (again, all registered voters) “strongly disapproved” of President Biden’s handling of immigration, with 15 percent somewhat disapproving, for a total disapproval of 57 percent.
Again, the female/male differential was reflected in this question.
Women were less likely to approve of Biden’s handling of the border (32 percent total, just 10 percent strongly) then men (38 percent total, 14 percent strongly). Women were also more likely to “strongly disapprove” of the president’s handling of immigration (43 percent to 41 percent of men), but total disapproval was slightly lower among females than males (56 percent, compared to 58 percent of men).
If the president thinks that he is catering to Hispanics with his immigration policies, he should think again. Just 40 percent of them approve of Biden’s handling of immigration (12 percent strongly), compared to 45 percent who disapprove (30 percent strongly).
On the topic of Hispanics, polling outfit FiveThirtyEight reported on October 21 that “Biden Has Lost Support Across All Groups Of Americans — But Especially Independents And Hispanics”.
Their scan of polling data shows that the president’s approval rating stood at just 43.5 percent as of October 20, down from the low 50s in February. While Biden is still popular among Democrats (84.8 percent), that skews the poll in his favor. Among Independents, Biden’s approval is 41.7 percent, while not surprisingly, just 17.9 percent of GOP respondents approve.
Then, there are Hispanics. From a high that had been close to 70 percent approval in February, now fewer than 50 percent of them approve of the president.
Citing to the earlier Quinnipiac poll referenced above, FiveThirtyEight explained:
Hispanics are ... frustrated with how Biden has dealt with immigration — long one of Biden’s weakest issues in the public’s eyes — and although it isn’t the most important issue for Hispanic voters, it is often a highly salient one. Earlier this month, Quinnipiac University found that only 23 percent of Hispanic Americans approved of Biden’s work on immigration, down from 49 percent in late May.
Note that there may be some editorial spin from FiveThirtyEight in that excerpt, particularly as it relates to the verb “frustrated”. It is not clear whether the outlet thinks that Hispanics want a more lenient or a more restrictive immigration policy than the nation is receiving, although that passage suggests it may be the former.
Lest there be any lingering doubt, however, here are the results of that October 6 Quinnipiac poll on Biden’s handling of the situation at the Mexican border, from the perspective of Hispanic respondents: approve, 24 percent; disapprove, 68 percent.
Again, total respondents gave the president 23 percent approval and 67 percent disapproval on this issue. That means that Hispanic respondents both approved of Biden’s handling of the Southwest border by 1 percent more than the average, but also disapproved by 1 percent more than the average.
There were simply fewer Hispanic respondents on the fence: Only 8 percent didn’t know or didn’t answer, compared to 11 percent of total respondents.
Polls are just a snapshot, and an imperfect one at that. The only polls that matter in politics are the ones where you go to vote, and the only results that count are the tabulations from voting machines.
That said, and although Joe Biden did not focus on immigration during the campaign, impressions of him as president are forming around certain key issues; immigration has emerged as one, along with his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the economy, and the disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The closest comparison that I can draw to a similar administration in my lifetime is to that of Jimmy Carter. There wasn’t a pandemic then (unless you count malaise), but Carter’s mishandling of the economy (“stagflation”), conflict in the Middle East (the Iran hostage crisis), and immigration (the Mariel boatlift) were political millstones for him in the 1980 election, ushering in an age of Republican resurgence under Ronald Reagan.
I hesitate to admit that although I have been following Joe Biden on immigration since well before the election, I am unsure what, exactly, the president’s immigration policies are, aside from a direct rebuke to his immediate successor.
If Donald Trump did it, Biden will do the opposite, regardless of whether the topic is interior enforcement, worksite enforcement, or control of the border (including Trump’s successful Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) better known as “Remain in Mexico”).
The president’s advisors may be pushing immigration non-enforcement as a popular issue for voters — including women, Independents, and Hispanics. As these polls show, however, it plainly isn’t.