Somehow, Biden’s Immigration and Border Polling Gets Worse

... taking Americans’ satisfaction with immigration levels with it, while support for Mayorkas's impeachment grows — including among Democrats

By Andrew R. Arthur on February 27, 2024

Americans’ approval of the job President Biden is doing on immigration and the border has never been strong, but somehow the most recent polls show satisfaction with the president’s handling of those topics is declining. More saliently, however, Biden’s poor handling of those subjects is taking Americans’ satisfaction with the level of immigration to this country down with it, and increasing the calls for his DHS secretary to be impeached.

The Economist/YouGov. Between February 18 and 20, polling outfit YouGov surveyed 1,562 U.S. adults — including 1,353 voters — for UK journal The Economist and asked them their thoughts on the president’s handling of immigration.

Among Americans aged 18 and older, 57 percent disapproved of the job Biden is doing on immigration, while just 34 percent approved. Biden’s showing was both better and worse among registered voters, 59 percent of whom disapproved and 35 percent of whom approved.

As with most Economist/YouGov polls, this one was Democrat-heavy, which is likely why this is one of the better polls for Biden on immigration. And two-thirds of those Democrats polled, 66 percent, approved of the president’s handling of immigration, while just 26 percent disapproved.

By comparison, 60 percent of Independent voters disapproved of Biden’s immigration performance, and just 23 percent approved. Not surprisingly, 88 percent of GOP voters disapproved of the job that Biden was doing — it was more of a shock that 10 percent of them approved.

Those statistics are indicative of a larger divide between Democratic voters and the rest of the electorate on immigration. Respondents were asked which of 15 separate issues was the most important to them, and immigration came in third overall (chosen by 12 percent of those polled), trailing just inflation/prices (20 percent) and health care (14 percent).

Immigration lagged only those two issues for Independents as well, the choice of 10 percent of the politically unaligned (22 percent of whom worry most about inflation, and 15 percent of whom considered health care their most important issue), while among Republicans, immigration tied with inflation as the top issue, each issue chosen by 25 percent of voters who affiliate with the GOP.

Contrast that with Democratic respondents. Just 2 percent of the president’s fellow partisans named immigration as their top issue, tying it in second-to-last place with “criminal justice reform” and “civil liberties”, and just ahead of “foreign policy” (at 1 percent).

I’ve made the point many times before, but it bears repeating: The crisis at the border is the result of Biden administration policies that are wildly unpopular with most Americans as a whole, but those policies are unlikely to change because they are popular with the president’s Democratic base.

Monmouth University. Monmouth University polled 902 U.S. adults between February 8 and 12, and the results were even worse for Biden. In that poll, 71 percent of registered voters disapproved of how Biden has handled immigration as president, while just 26 percent approved.

Had it not been for the Democrats surveyed — 54 percent of whom approved of Biden’s handling of immigration and 42 percent of whom disapproved — those results would have been even worse for the incumbent.

That’s because 74 percent of Independents and 97 percent of Republicans disapproved of Biden’s performance when it comes to immigration, compared to just 21 percent and 2 percent of those two cohorts who approved of Biden’s performance on immigration, respectively.

Biden’s overall approval on immigration has stayed steady since the last time Monmouth asked this question (in December), but his disapproval has climbed 2 points in the interim. That’s because the percentage of respondents who weren’t quite sure about the issue has fallen, from 5 percent to 3 percent. The more people find out about Biden’s handling of immigration, the less they like it.

Note that in a September 2022 Monmouth poll, “just” 63 percent of respondents disapproved of Biden’s immigration performance, and 31 percent approved. That’s a 13-point swing in 17 months, and likely attributable to the fact that the media had largely ignored the Southwest border crisis until Senate negotiators began considering reforms in November.

The proposal those negotiators presented would simply have made the situation at the border worse, which is why it quickly went down in flames, leaving the president no viable political option aside from attempting to shift the blame to the GOP for the crisis. As this poll shows, that gambit hasn’t worked.

In any event, that 26 percent approval to 71 percent disapproval split on Biden’s handling of immigration is the biggest vulnerability for the president in a poll that shows he’s underwater on every key political issue: jobs — 48 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove; infrastructure — 43 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove; climate change — 41 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove; inflation — 34 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove; foreign policy — 33 percent approve, 65 percent disapprove.

Harvard Harris. On February 26, the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University, The Harris Poll, and Harris-X released the results of their latest survey, conducted between February 21 and 22, which took the political pulse of 2,022 registered voters.

As with their January poll, it revealed that “immigration” remains the top concern of U.S. voters, identified as a key worry by 36 percent of respondents (a one-point increase over January), with inflation (at 33 percent) taking second place.

Notably, more than half — 51 percent — of GOP voters surveyed identified immigration as among the most important issues facing the country, and 56 percent of those aged 65 years and older did the same. Again, by contrast, just 21 percent of Democratic voters were concerned about immigration.

Note also that a solid majority, 59 percent, of respondents to that poll agreed with the statement: “I miss Donald Trump's policies on the economy, immigration and crime.” That’s plainly not good for the Biden re-election campaign.

American voters have plainly awakened to what’s occurring at the Southwest border, and don’t like what they’re seeing: Some 63 percent of respondents — and 65 percent of Independents — believe that the immigration problem at the border is getting worse.

And they want a change, with 71 percent of voters calling on the White House to make it tougher for migrants to get into the United States illegally (including 76 percent of Independents and 56 percent of Democrats) compared to 29 percent (including 44 percent of Democrats) who want the president to maintain his current border policies.

While the president claims he needs Congress to give him new powers to deal with the border surge, 54 percent of respondents believe he has all the authority he needs to control the border — including 51 percent of Democrats — although Independents were evenly split, 50-50, on that question.

Biden’s point-man on immigration, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, received special attention in that poll, though likely not the kind he wants.

Well more than half — 57 percent — of voters believe the secretary is willfully not enforcing the border, including 61 percent of Independents. Compare that to the 65 percent of Democrats who stated that Mayorkas is adequately enforcing the border, and the partisan divide I described above becomes even clearer.

Likely consequently, 62 percent of voters polled supported a House GOP effort to impeach Secretary Mayorkas “under the charge of willfully not enforcing immigration laws and securing the border”. Shockingly, that’s also the opinion of nearly half — 48 percent — of Democratic voters who were polled, as well as 54 percent of Independents.

That raises the question of whether the administration will offer up Mayorkas as a scapegoat for its immigration and border problems. That’s not likely, but given that immigration is surging as an issue, and that just 35 percent of the voters in that poll approve of how Biden’s handling it (his lowest showing among 10 subject areas), nothing should be considered off the table in an election year.

That’s especially true given the fact that the president’s efforts to shift blame for the failure of the Senate border bill (which, as noted, would have only made the situation at the border worse) onto his likely GOP opponent appear to have been in vain.

Some 55 percent of those polled — including half of Independent voters, 87 percent of Republican ones, and 28 percent of registered Democrats — supported Trump’s call for the Senate to not pass that bill, while just 45 percent respondents blamed the former president for “standing in the way of solving a major issue”.

If more voters actually understood what was in that bill and what it what have done, I have no doubt support for Trump on this point would have been greater, but that said it appears the electorate knew enough to not trust the claims of most in the media that it would have been a positive game-changer.

Gallup. Which brings me to a February 22 Gallup release captioned “Americans Offer Anemic State of the Nation Report”. The polling therein shows growing voter dissatisfaction with many aspects of American life and federal policy, but most importantly that:

Since January 2021, public satisfaction has fallen most sharply with the nation’s military strength and preparedness, the immigration level, the nation’s energy policies, and its laws or policies on guns. All four readings are at or near their record lows, with only satisfaction with the military (62% very or somewhat satisfied) holding at the majority level.

Just over a quarter of respondents to that poll — 28 percent — are satisfied with “the level of immigration today”. That’s an 11-point decline in voter satisfaction since Biden entered the Oval Office in January 2021, and had it not been for the 12-point drop in voters’ satisfaction over our “nation's military strength and preparedness”, support for immigration would have spelled the biggest decline on any issue over the Biden presidency (tied with a drop in satisfaction over U.S. gun and energy policies and taxes of 11 percent since January 2021).

That’s bad for any number of reasons, starting with the fact that Biden’s border policies are undermining Americans’ faith in legal immigration. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that’s exactly what Barbara Jordan warned more than a quarter century ago would happen if the federal government failed to control illegal immigration.

Jordan — civil rights icon, former Democratic congresswoman from Texas, and then-chairwoman of President Clinton’s Commission on Immigration Reform — told the House Judiciary Committee in September 1994 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. [Emphasis added.]

Which, as the Gallup poll reveals, is exactly what has happened. I’ll note that Gallup was quick to add:

Although immigration is the issue that Americans who disapprove of Biden’s job performance cite most as the reason for their view, and it saw among the sharpest declines in satisfaction over the past year, the current 28% satisfied with the level of immigration into the country today is not the lowest for this issue — that was 23% in 2008.

Note that 2008 was the depths of the “Great Recession”, in which even well-off Americans felt the pinch of a massive — and rapid — decline in the U.S. economy. The unemployment rate climbed steadily that year, reaching 7.2 percent in December 2008 as 11.1 million Americans were out of work. High unemployment, naturally, prompts Americans of all stripes to want to curtail the level of new workers.

Last month, however, the unemployment rate sat at 3.7 percent, as 353,000 more non-farm jobs were created. Americans’ discontent over immigration is not simply an economic issue.

Thanks to Joe Biden, illegal immigration is now a fiscal and municipal problem, as millions of illegal aliens at the Southwest border released by the administration since January 2021 have made their way to the interior, where they are drawing on limited educational, medical, and housing resources, demanding public relief, and costing cities and states billions in taxpayer funds.

As these polls reveal, illegal immigration at the Southwest border is a millstone around President Biden’s re-election chances, but worse, it’s pulling Americans’ commitment to legal immigration down with it. If the president wants to continue to allow hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants to enter the country each month, that’s his choice, but the long-term ramifications will haunt Americans for years to come.