Polls: Biden Is Turning Voters Against Immigration

‘No president in a century has done more to damage the cause of legal immigration than Joe Biden’; the lasting wisdom of Barbara Jordan

By Andrew R. Arthur on June 25, 2024

On June 17, I analyzed the results of a recent poll from UK periodical The Economist and opinion outfit YouGov that showed the president’s support on immigration dropping after his latest “border security” proclamation. I left out one other key response in that poll, showing that increasing numbers of U.S. voters are taking a dour view of immigration generally, almost definitely in response to the impact of Biden’s border policies.

“Barbara Jordan Vindicated”. In August 2022 I published a piece captioned “Barbara Jordan Vindicated as Americans’ Perceptions of Immigration Take a Negative Turn”.

Jordan, as you may know, was a liberal Democrat and civil rights icon who became the first African-American woman elected to Congress from the South (from Texas in 1972). More saliently, she was appointed in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton to be chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, serving until her untimely death in January 1996.

In that capacity, Jordan testified extensively on the commission’s findings, which undercut many of the tropes peddled by open-borders progressives today to such a degree that there is a veritable cottage industry for soi-disant “elites” willing to assert that Jordan didn’t really say what she then said.

In any event, while presenting the initial findings of her committee to Congress in September 1994, Jordan explained that:

If we cannot control illegal immigration, we cannot sustain our national interest in legal immigration. Those who come here illegally, and those who hire them, will destroy the credibility of our immigration policies and their implementation. In the course of that, I fear, they will destroy our commitment to immigration itself.

She doubled down on that statement in the next paragraph of her testimony:

For immigration to serve our national interest, it must be lawful. There are people who argue that some illegal aliens contribute to our economy because they work, pay taxes, send their children to our schools, and in all respects except one, obey the law. Let me be clear: that is not enough.

You’ll notice the exact same arguments Jordan dismissed out of hand about the economic and fiscal benefits provided by “illegal aliens” continue to be offered by the vast majority of “experts” cited by the Federal Reserve chairman (for what that’s worth) with respect to the impacts of the border surge, which is why to the degree her conclusions are mentioned today, it’s to deny the clear intent of her conclusions.

So, were Jordan’s conclusions about unfettered illegal immigration adversely affecting the credibility of our immigration policies correct — that is, can they be empirically proven? As it turns out, the answer is “Yes.”

July 2022 Economist/YouGov Poll. In July 2022, The Economist and YouGov polled 1,500 U.S. adults and asked them: “In general, do you think immigration makes the U.S. better off or worse off, or does it not make much difference?”

In response, 31 percent of those polled asserted immigration makes the country better off, 35 percent said it made the United States worse off, 22 percent opined that it didn’t make much difference one way or the other, and 12 percent weren’t sure.

That’s U.S. adults generally, but when the question was asked of the registered voters in that poll, the results were a little closer.

Among those who participate in the franchise, again 35 percent believed that immigration made the country worse off, while 34 percent believed it made the country a better place (20 percent didn’t think it made much difference and 11 percent were unsure).

Looking just at those registered voters, however, two things were clear: (1) a plurality of the electorate had turned on immigration; and (2) 55 percent of registered voters in this “nation of immigrants” had either a dour or neutral view of immigration itself.

June 2024 Economist/YouGov Poll. Which brings me to the latest Economist/YouGov poll to ask that question, conducted between June 9 and 11 and which this time surveyed 1,595 U.S. adults.

In the latest poll, sentiments surrounding immigration took an even more negative turn, as just 28 percent of respondents overall believed immigration made the country better off, 18 percent didn’t think it made much of a difference, and 38 percent thought it made the United States “worse off” (15 percent weren’t sure).

Again — that’s American adults generally, not registered voters. And therein hangs a tale, because it turns out that the electorate has really begun to sour on immigration. Here are the results among just those who have signed up to cast ballots in November:

  • Better off: 32 percent
  • Does not make much difference: 16 percent
  • Not sure: 10 percent
  • Worse off: 42 percent

Thus, among both Americans generally and voters in particular, there is a 10-point margin between those who view immigration as making the country worse off and those who believe it makes the country better off — but when it comes to the latter cohort, the ones whose opinions really count, more than four in 10 think immigration is a “bad thing” for the country’s welfare.

Critically, the percentage of registered voters who think immigration is making the country “worse off” have increased by seven points in less than two years, while the percentage of voters who think immigration has made the country better off has fallen two points in the same period.

The reason why voters’ sentiments about immigration have taken a negative turn is clear: Americans see the adverse impacts of illegal migration in cities and towns across the Republic under Biden, and they don’t like it.

Note that in the July 2022 poll, “immigration” was identified as the “most important issue” by just 4 percent of registered voters, tied for eighth place with such issues as “guns” and “crime” and trailing the leading issues — “climate change” and “health care” (respectively) — by eight points.

In the June 2024 poll, immigration at 16 percent is the second-leading issue among registered voters, trailing just “inflation/prices” (and even then, by just four points), and leading abortion by seven points and climate change by eight.

Most importantly, and just as Jordan warned, voters’ concerns about illegal immigration are “destroying” Americans’ commitment to immigration itself”. Today, a solid majority — 58 percent — of voting Americans either think immigration makes the United States worse off or that it just doesn’t make much difference at all, meaning they are “decommitting” from immigration as a national value.

Gallup. Lest you think the negative impact of Biden’s policies on our national commitment to immigration are only reflected in two polls, I’ll offer a third, this one from the father of opinion firms, Gallup.

Beginning in June 1965, Gallup started asking respondents the following question: “Thinking now about immigrants — that is, people who come from other countries to live here in the United States, in your view, should immigration be kept at its present level, increased or decreased?”

The cohort favoring increases reached its zenith in that poll in May 2020 (under Trump and interestingly during the Covid-pandemic border shutdown) when 34 percent wanted more immigration compared to 28 percent who wanted a decrease.

The last time Gallup asked the question was in June 2023, when a plurality — 41 percent — of respondents wanted an immigration cut; 31 percent wanted immigration to remain the same, and just 26 percent wanted an increase. Regardless, an increase is what they have been getting under Biden.

Gallup is due to ask that question again soon (likely in the immediate run-up to the elections), and I hazard to guess what the results will be then. I’m not banking on a resurgence in those clamoring for an increase.

WSJ: “Biden Sees Obama’s DACA, and Raises”. On June 18, the day the president announced his plan to create an administrative “parole in place” amnesty for 550,000 illegal-alien spouses of U.S. citizens and their children, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial headlined “Biden Sees Obama’s DACA, and Raises: The President uses undocumented immigrants married to Americans as pawns to appease the left”.

That header more or less captures the objections that the (objectively pro-immigration) editorial board have with respect to the political motivations of the president’s extra-statutory action, but the last two paragraphs of that piece are notable:

The President’s order will further inflame the politics of immigration and make compromise in Congress even more unlikely. The move will stoke Republican complaints of Democratic bad faith, and Mr. Trump is already calling the program “mass amnesty.”

The losers will be the illegal migrants, and anyone who wants reform to allow more legal immigration. No President in a century has done more to damage the cause of legal immigration than Joe Biden.

As the foregoing demonstrates, that last sentence isn’t opinion — it’s verifiable fact.

If I were asked my views by YouGov, I’d say immigration makes the United States better, which as the polling above shows is now a minority view. But that’s because “immigration” to me only refers to the legal and controlled variety, not what’s occurring now.

The progressive advocates crafting the president’s migrant policies and their supporters in the media deliberately conflate legal and illegal immigration as they press for more of each. Unwittingly, they’re souring Americans on the very concept of immigration — just as Barbara Jordan warned. That’s likely the least forgivable, but longest-lasting consequence, of the administration’s immigration schemes.