Poll Shows Concern Among Medicare/Social Security Voters About the Border

What do they know?

By Andrew R. Arthur on December 2, 2021

  • In the most recent Morning Consult/Politico polling, 59 percent of respondents disapproved of the president’s handling of immigration, 44 percent “strongly so”. Just 11 percent of respondents strongly approved of the job Biden is doing on immigration, with overall approval at 32 percent.
  • Those numbers are worse than they were for the president in a similar poll conducted about two weeks prior. In that poll, disapproval of Biden’s performance on immigration stood at 57 percent, 42 percent of whom strongly disapproved. The president’s approval on immigration in that poll was 33 percent, with the same 11 percent strong approval rating.
  • Significantly, approval of Biden’s handling of immigration is lower among unaffiliated voters than it is among respondents as a whole: 63 percent of Independents disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration, 45 percent strongly so. That is a five-point increase in overall disapproval since the earlier polling, and a seven-point increase in “strong” disapproval.
  • Seventy-one percent of respondents were concerned about illegal immigration at the Southwest border — with 44 percent stating that they were “very concerned”.
  • The level of concern about illegal immigration at the border was higher among respondents for whom Medicare and Social Security are the top issues compared to overall respondents. Seventy-four percent of Medicare/Social Security voters were concerned about illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, with 48 percent “very concerned”.
  • Despite these concerns, those Medicare/Social Security respondents were 10 percentage points more likely to vote for a Democratic congressional candidate if the election were held today, revealing that border concerns are not a partisan issue.
  • This polling reveals opportunities for both Democrats and Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections. By boosting security at the Southwest border, Democrats could win over voters, but improvement there does not appear likely. The GOP could make gains by highlighting the fiscal costs of illegal immigration.

Between November 13 and 15, research firm Morning Consult Morning Consultand Capitol Hill paper Politico conducted a poll of 1,998 registered voters. Not surprisingly, it showed a lack of support for President Biden’s immigration policies. More interesting is the high level of concern over illegal immigration at the Southwest border that poll revealed among voters for whom Medicare and Social Security are the top issue. What do they know that D.C. doesn’t?

Approval of the President’s Performance on Immigration

First, the approval numbers for the president’s performance when it comes to immigration. Just 11 percent of respondents “strongly approved” of Biden’s handling of immigration, and an additional 21 percent “somewhat approved”, for a total approval of 32 percent.

By contrast, 44 percent of those polled “strongly disapproved” of Biden’s work on immigration, with an additional 15 percent who “somewhat disapproved”, for a total disapproval of 59 percent.

When you are down almost two-to-one, it is likely time to change course. The president shows no sign of a course correction, however, so the numbers will likely stay stuck where they are — or get worse.

Disapproval Growing

In that vein, the president’s approval rating on immigration has actually gotten worse since the prior Morning Consult/Politico poll that asked this question, conducted between October 30 and November 1.

In that poll, again, 11 percent of respondents strongly approved of Biden’s handling of immigration, but 22 percent somewhat approved, for a total approval of 33 percent. On the negative side in that earlier poll, 42 percent strongly disapproved of the job that the president was doing on immigration and, once more, 15 percent somewhat disapproved; total disapproval: 57 percent.

Given the fact that the president did not have any more “Del Rio”-size disasters in the two-week period between the two polls, it appears that opinions — mostly negative — of Biden’s handling of immigration are starting to stick.

Disapproval Rating Gets Worse among Independent Swing Voters

The president is losing support for his immigration policies among those whose support he and his party need the most in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, Independents.

In the earlier poll, Biden had the support of 26 percent of respondents who do not affiliate with either major party for his immigration policies, 6 percent strongly and 20 percent somewhat. On the flip side, Independents’ disapproval for Biden’s handling of immigration stood at 58 percent — 38 percent strongly so.

By the latest poll, Independents’ support for Biden’s handling of immigration fell to a mere 22 percent — with just 4 percent strongly supporting the president’s job when it comes to the subject. Given the fact that 3 percent of Republicans strongly approved of Biden’s handling of immigration, those numbers are not good, and they plainly aren’t partisan.

The percentage of Independents who disapprove of the job that Biden is doing was even worse in the most recent poll. Fully 63 percent of the unaffiliated disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration — 45 percent strongly so, one percentage point higher than respondents as a whole. Putting the total disapproval numbers together, Biden is doing four percentage points worse among Independents than he is among all respondents.

Independents are the swing voters in elections, so that cannot be good news for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who respectively are holding on to slim majorities in the House and an evenly split Senate (Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, tips the balance in Schumer’s favor).

High Levels of Concern About Illegal Immigration at the U.S.-Mexico Border

The latest poll asked respondents how concerned they are about illegal immigration at the Southwest border, and those numbers are even worse for the president than the polling on his performance on immigration writ large.

Seventy-one percent of respondents asserted that they were concerned about illegal immigration at the Southwest border, 44 percent of whom stated that they were “very concerned”. By contrast, just 29 percent were more lackadaisical about the national-security and humanitarian disaster there, with 19 percent who were “not too concerned” about the border and 10 percent who were “not concerned at all”.

Among those for whom “Security” was their top issue, the level of concern shot up to 95 percent, with 84 percent responding that they were very concerned. That is not a big surprise, though, because border security is a main component of national security, and border security is in limited supply under the Biden administration.

“Social Security/Medicare” Voters’ Border Concerns

As noted at the outset, however, the number of respondents who identified Medicare and Social Security as their top issue and who were very concerned about illegal immigration at the Southwest border was surprisingly high: 74 percent, including 48 percent who were very concerned about illegal immigration there.

For purposes of comparison, 71 percent of those who identified the “Economy” as their number-one issue stated that they were concerned about illegal immigration at the Southwest border, 41 percent strongly so. Still high, and still bad for Biden, but lower than the level of concern among those for whom Medicare and Social Security is the weightiest issue.

That would appear to run contrary to arguments like “immigration is a valuable tool that can help support America’s current generation of retirees” and contentions that “[p]olicies that reduce immigration would almost certainly weaken Medicare’s financial health, while an increasing flow of immigrants might bolster its sustainability”.

Perhaps those voters who are concerned about Social Security and Medicare and about runaway immigration at the Southwest border don’t understand the “complexities of the issue”.

Or maybe they have read the work of my colleague Jason Richwine and grasp the fact that an amnesty for millions of illegal migrants “would transform illegal immigrants from net contributors into net beneficiaries, imposing steep costs on the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.”

Another possibility is that they understand that fiscal resources are finite and that an influx of aliens across the border puts a strain on the social safety net — and especially on already stretched medical resources.

It is important to note that those Social Security/Medicare voters are not all hardcore Republicans driven by partisan differences. Fifty percent of respondents for whom this is the number-one issue would vote for the Democratic congressional candidate if the election were held today, compared to 40 percent who would vote for the GOP candidate.

To put that into perspective, among respondents for whom the Economy is the number one issue, 37 percent would vote Democratic, and 48 percent would vote Republican. Among “Security” voters, there is a 15 percent Democratic/77 percent Republican split.

Key Takeaways

Immigration generally, and illegal immigration at the Southwest border particularly, is a vulnerability for the president and congressional Democrats. Concerns about the situation there are not limited to those focused on terrorism and foreign policy but are also affecting the opinions of voters who care about the ability of the federal government to care for the most vulnerable members of our population.

Those Medicare/Social Security voters are not lost to Biden’s party or his fellow partisans, but opinions about the president’s handling of immigration and the border are largely negative and getting worse.

If illegal migration at the Southwest border declines significantly in FY 2022, Biden’s approval ratings on his handling of the situation there could and likely would rise, but that does not appear to be in the offing. As I explained on November 17, Border Patrol apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border declined slightly in October but were still historically high. FY 2021 was bad; FY 2022 will likely be worse.

On the other hand, the crisis at the border provides an opportunity for Republicans to make gains in the midterm 2022 elections.

While Republicans could likely rest on the president’s poor performance in responding to illegal migration, arguments explaining how illegal immigration affects the ability of federal, state, and local governments to provide services to the neediest could sway some voters who are not now inclined to vote for the GOP in 2022.