Poll: Biden, Democrats Taking Heat for Immigration Disaster

Unvetted immigration campaign promises prove unpopular in practice

By Andrew R. Arthur on July 8, 2021

On Message, Inc. recently released a poll that it had conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the Republican Governors’ Association (RGA) of 1,200 likely voters in 26 senatorial and gubernatorial “battleground” states. It reveals that immigration is a big liability for Democrats, whom voters in those states blame for the current immigration disaster.

First, however, the states deemed "battlegrounds" and that were therefore polled are somewhat remarkable. Safely Republican areas like Alaska, Arkansas, and South Dakota were included, as were dark blue Hawaii, Illinois, and Maryland. Such is this mid-term election political season.

The poll is useful because the questions asked are pretty straightforward, but the phrasing is still interesting.

For example, it asked respondents to agree or disagree, strongly or somewhat, with the following: "Upon taking office President Biden issued Executive Orders eliminating a number of tough Trump policies with regard to immigration. Because of this President Biden is to blame for the increased amount of illegal immigration."

Note that the question terms Trump's policies "tough". That term can have positive ("effective") and negative ("harsh") connotations, and each individual party has used one or the other to describe Trump's immigration policies depending on their individual politics. I will discuss this point further in a future post because it merits expanded discussion.

Here, however, are the responses: 56 percent of those polled agreed with the statement (49 percent strongly), while 40 percent disagreed. This indicates -- in particular-- that most of the voters in those battleground states believe that the Biden administration erred in removing Trump-era mechanisms that had discouraged illegal entry without its own plan to replace them.

It was apparent from Biden's rhetoric on his campaign website that he planned on scrapping Trump's policies as soon as he took office.

For example, he referred to several of those policies in ethical terms, deeming the 45th president’s missteps on immigration ("family separation" and poor temporary detention conditions at the border) and ordinary immigration enforcement ("massive raids" --- presumably at worksites-- and the arrest of long-term illegal aliens) as "moral failing[s]" and "national shame[s]".

Interestingly, at the same time, Biden criticized Trump’s effectiveness in carrying out ordinary immigration enforcement, asserting in particular:

The Trump Administration's policies have created a humanitarian disaster at our border and grossly mismanaged the unprecedented resources Congress has allocated for it. Trump has diverted money to terrorize immigrant families, even as CBP facilities at the border are overwhelmed. After almost three years, this Administration still doesn’t have a coherent plan for the protection and processing of children and families. CBP officers in the field, who are neither trained nor equipped for this work, are shouldering outsized responsibility for managing this crisis.

The inconsistency of these positions passed with little comment, not just from a largely pro-Biden press, but also from the Trump campaign itself.

Therefore, these points were good political ones for the former vice president, but Biden's positions were bound to spark a backlash if he could not subsequently deliver on his promise "to secure our borders".

Which he couldn't. Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border reached a 21-year high within weeks of Biden taking office and eliminating nearly every "tough” Trump border policy. Worse, pictures of the same sorts of overcrowded and under-resourced detention centers that Biden had criticized on the campaign trail started to leak out into the press.

Biden's proposals were doomed to fail (for reasons I explained in January 2020), but because they were never vetted during the campaign, that fact wasn’t publicly apparent until those proposals were implemented.

Now that they have been implemented, voters have buyer's remorse, as this poll shows. Specifically, it reveals that the surge of illegal immigration at the southern border makes 53 percent of voters in those battleground states less likely to support Democratic candidates in the 2022 election -- 48 percent of them much less likely.

By contrast, and somewhat curiously, that surge makes 23 percent of respondents more likely to support Democratic candidates in the midterms (with 17 percent "much more likely" to support Biden's fellow partisans). Those voters were likely the target audience for Biden’s immigration message, and the only ones who were really listening to it.

Not surprisingly, the poll also shows that Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris, is a liability for the Democrats in her role as quasi-"border czar".

Just 31 percent of respondents deemed her effective in responding to the surge of illegal migrants at the southern border, and even then, just nine percent deemed her "very effective".

By contrast, 58 percent of those polled stated that she has been ineffective in this role, with a majority (51 percent) stating that she has "not [been] effective at all".

The poll is actually worse for Democrats in the midterm elections than even these dismal statistics would suggest.

Partisans are going to vote for their party, but crucial Independent "swing" voters in those battleground states place the blame for the surge in illegal immigration squarely on Biden's scrapping of Trump’s policies, by a margin of 60 percent to 36 percent.

As I recall (I am unable to find an actual cite), James Taranto noted years ago in the Wall Street Journal that there was a phenomenon that affected Democratic candidates. Because nominally objective reporters lean liberal, they normally fail to vet those politicians when they are running for office in the same way that they glean through the public statements, voting records, and taxes of Republicans.

When those Democratic candidates get elected to high office, however, their flaws become apparent, to the detriment of their fellow party members.

If anything, this was turbocharged in the 2020 general election (with a lot of help from Trump). Biden has lived almost all of his life in the public eye, but his missteps and vulnerabilities were largely papered over, a trend that continues to the present among a press corps much more focused on the president’s taste in ice cream than in ideology.

The current unfolding disaster at the border, however, is a real fact that the press must report on (often reluctantly). If press reports are true, White House insiders are attempting to make Harris the scapegoat for the administration’s patent border failures, even as the president’s team puts the best face on what is occurring there and tries to deflect the blame to Trump.

The NRSC/RGA poll shows that VP Harris is taking some of the heat for the border disaster, but that the most critical voters in the most crucial states for control of Congress in the midterm elections are still pinning the blame squarely on the president and his party. A lot can happen in the next 18 months, but without a course correction, Biden and vulnerable Democrats are going to pay the price.