‘Security Issues’ – Including the Border – High on List of Voters’ Concerns in Latest Poll

Most disapprove of Biden on immigration, including Independents and Hispanics

By Andrew R. Arthur on January 14, 2022

Between January 8 and 9, Morning Consult and Politico conducted a poll of 2,000 registered voters. It revealed that “security issues” — including the border — ranked number two on the list of respondents’ concerns. It also showed strong disapproval of how President Biden is handling immigration, including by key Independent and Hispanic voters.

Security Issues Second Most Important for Voters, Behind the Economy. “Economic issues” (taxes, wages, jobs, unemployment, and spending) ranked number one on the list of issues that voters will consider when voting for the House and Senate according to that poll; those issues were identified by 40 percent of respondents.

“Security issues” (terrorism, foreign policy, and border security) came in a strong number two, at 15 percent.

One-fifth, 20 percent, of Gen Xers (those born between 1965 and 1980, including me) ranked security issues number one, as did 17 percent of Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964). Millennials (born 1991 to 1996) and Gen Zers (born 1997 to 2012) were a bit more blasé: Just 9 percent in each cohort ranked security issues as their top concern when headed to the ballot box.

Republican men were the most likely to vote based on security issues (30 percent), while Democratic men were the least likely (4 percent). Independents more or less split the difference, at 14 percent.

Security issues as a factor in voting beat out other, fairly relevant concerns such as “healthcare” (12 percent), “seniors issues” (11 percent), “energy issues” (8 percent), “women’s issues” (4 percent), and “education issues” (including school choice and student loans, 4 percent).

That border security (or lack thereof) has a significant impact on economic issues (including taxes and wages, the latter for those on the lowest rung especially) and class sizes in American schools (another aspect of education issues) is notable.

As for another component of security — terrorism — concerns over an imminent attack have largely faded since September 11 (that event is likely why Gen Xers and Baby Boomers remain vigilant), but again, border security directly touches on that issue, as well.

All 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were aliens, though all had entered illegally (albeit fraudulently). Given the fact that some 400,000 aliens entered the United States illegally last fiscal year and managed to evade apprehension, illegal entry now appears to be a preferable method for a would-be terrorist to gain access to our nation and its institutions than fraudulent admission.

The President Received Low Marks on His Handling of Immigration. The poll also asked respondents their impressions of Biden’s handling of immigration, and the results were, predictably, not good for the president.

Fifty-six percent of respondents disapproved of Biden’s handling of immigration (42 percent strongly), while just 33 percent approved (11 percent strongly). As usual, the internals are even more interesting.

Older Voters Were More Likely to Disapprove of Biden’s Performance. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers were the most likely to strongly disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration (48 percent and 45 percent, respectively; overall disapproval was 65 percent and 58 percent for those groups, again respectively), but Millennials were not far behind.

Half of those aged 25 to 40 disapproved of the president’s performance on immigration (36 percent strongly), compared to just 35 percent who approved (13 percent strongly).

Not Much Difference Between Hispanics and Non-Hispanic Whites. Sixty-two percent of non-Hispanic whites disapproved of Biden’s handling of the issue (almost half, 48 percent, strongly), compared to just 30 percent who approved (just one-third, 10 percent, strongly).

Significantly, the president did not do much better among Hispanic voters: 55 percent disapproved of the job that Biden is doing on immigration (39 percent strongly), while only 32 percent approved (a measly 9 percent strongly).

Note that whites were more likely to strongly approve of Biden’s handling of immigration than Hispanics (although the president did not do well in either demographic). This suggests that Democratic attempts to cater to Hispanic voters with loose immigration policies aren’t working.

Instead, as recent polling out of Texas revealed, there is not much difference between white and Hispanic voters when it comes to immigration and their opinions of those who are handling it.

Disapproval by Key Independent Voters Is High. With the 2022 midterm elections approaching, it is important to look at the opinions of Independents, swing voters who will determine the outcomes in close races.

Sixty-one percent of those not beholden to either party disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration (42 percent strongly), compared to just 23 percent who approved (6 percent strongly).

Interestingly, Independent women were slightly less likely than Independent men to strongly approve of Biden’s performance (6 percent compared to 7 percent), but non-aligned males were much more likely to strongly disapprove than their female counterparts (46 percent to 39 percent).

Implications for the President and His Party. Back in November, Thomas Edsall wrote an essay in the New York Times examining the popularity of immigration, captioned “The ‘Third Rail of American Politics’ Is Still Electrifying”. Much of that essay had to do with why immigration should poll better, but there were two important takeaways.

First, Edsall noted that: “Over and over again, immigration has proved to be politically problematic for Democrats.”

The Morning Consult/Politico poll reveals that Democrats’ problems with immigration continue. Their difficulties in selling their immigration positions under the current administration remind me of the line from the late Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns”: “I thought that you'd want what I want. Sorry, my dear”.

Then-candidate Joe Biden made clear on the campaign trail that he wanted more immigration and less enforcement, particularly at the border. Not many (except for Todd Bensman and me) were listening then, but now Biden’s proposals are patent, and the results are inescapable. Not many voters want what he wants.

Second, Edsall quoted Harvard sociologist Mary C. Waters, who asserted: “There is a large intensity difference. In 2020 support for immigration was the highest it’s ever been since 1965 when Gallup first asked the questions. But the people who are opposed to immigration are really opposed.”

Waters’ tone is a little overstated. I talk to people about immigration on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis and don’t recall anyone telling me that they are opposed to immigration.

Rather, their positions are akin to those of the late civil rights icon Barbara Jordan, who almost 27 years ago explained: “To make sense about the national interest in immigration, it is necessary to make distinctions between those who obey the law, and those who violate it. Therefore, we disagree, also, with those who label our efforts to control illegal immigration as somehow inherently anti-immigrant.”

The people whom Waters labels as “opposed to immigration” simply expect (reasonably if you read Edsall’s essay) that immigration be subject to limits and controls.

Waters’ underlying point, however, is sound. There are many corporate interests and advocates who support unfettered immigration, but not many Americans vote based on that sentiment. Opponents of open borders do vote on that stance, however. And, as the Morning Consult/Politico poll reflects, there are a lot of voters who oppose the president’s expansive immigration policies.