Two New Polls Show Biden Immigration Approval Further Slipping

Even while the government appears to be hiding the bad July border numbers

By Andrew R. Arthur on August 17, 2023

Two new polls — one from Reuters/Ipsos and one from Fox News — show that Americans’ disapproval of the job President Biden is doing on immigration is growing, after he had received a tiny approval bump once an expected surge of post-Title 42 migrants failed to immediately develop. Advance reporting indicates that the wave is bubbling up now, as July Southwest border apprehension numbers jumped by about a third from the month before. Not surprisingly, the government appears to be sitting on the official border numbers for last month — because that’s what this administration does with bad border news.

Title 42 and Its Immediate Aftermath. While Biden quickly ditched nearly all the successful Trump-era immigration-related policies that had brought a modicum of security to the Southwest border, he kept CDC orders — issued under Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the Covid-19 pandemic — directing the expulsion of illegal migrants in place, at least for a while.

Biden tried to end Title 42 in late May 2022, but that effort was blocked in the courts, and his DOJ made only half-hearted efforts to overturn that result.

Then, in mid-November, a different federal judge told DHS it had to stop expelling aliens by December 20, though the Supreme Court further delayed that end date.

Finally, after the White House issued a notice on January 30 that it would end to all Covid-19 restrictions on May 11, Title 42’s death warrant was signed, effective on that later date.

The reason why there was so much litigation to keep Title 42 going was a concern that illegal entries would skyrocket once those CDC orders were lifted. In the spring of 2022, DHS had initially warned that up to 18,000 aliens would attempt to enter illegally per day once Title 42 ended, and although that figure kept getting pared back, the consensus was that illegal entries would climb from already record levels.

When that post-Title 42 wave failed to develop initially, Biden and his fellow victors took a victory lap, but as I explained when the May numbers came out, the administration (at least) was likely whistling past the graveyard, knowing that the lull would not last.

And after CBP’s June Southwest border numbers came out in mid-July, I explained the administration was keeping the apprehension statistics artificially low by allowing would-be illegal migrants — who otherwise would have shown up in the Border Patrol apprehension totals — to preschedule illegal entries at the ports of entry instead using the CBP One app (bureaucratic legerdemain I’ve described as the “CBP One app port interview scheme”) — at a then-rate of more than 1,000 per day (currently 1,450 per day).

Post-Title 42 Polling. Biden received a slight bump — if you can call it that — in immediate post-Title 42 polling when that border influx failed to appear.

In Reuters/Ipsos polling done the week before May 11, Biden’s immigration approval rating was 34 points underwater, with 60 percent disapproving of the job that he was doing, compared to just 26 percent who approved. A month later, in June, that gap narrowed to 26 points, with 55 percent disapproving of Biden’s immigration performance and 29 percent approving of it. Not great — but better.

In an Economist/YouGov poll conducted May 6 to 9, 53 percent of respondents disapproved of the job Joe Biden was doing on immigration, and 38 percent approved — a 15-point spread. In the same poll two weeks later, that gap narrowed to 13 points, with 52 percent still disapproving, but 39 percent in the approval camp.

“Border Arrests Surged in July, a Blow to Biden Migration Plan”. Then, on August 1, the Washington Post published an article headlined “Border arrests surged in July, a blow to Biden migration plan”. It began:

U.S. agents made more than 130,000 arrests along the Mexico border last month, preliminary figures show, up from 99,545 in June. Authorities allowed an additional 50,000 migrants to cross into the United States in July, primarily through Biden administration programs allowing asylum seekers to schedule appointments at U.S. ports of entry using the CBP One mobile application.

Similar stories followed, and then on August 14 the Wall Street Journal reported:

Along the key routes in Latin America, the number of migrants making their way north has also been rising fast. It is an indication that apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border could again reach the record level seen earlier this year.

That’s particularly bad news given that “earlier this year”, agents at the Southwest border were apprehending illegal migrants at a rate of more than 7,100 per day.

Recent Polling. Which brings me to the latest polls.

In the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted between August 4 and 6, Biden’s now 29 points in the red on immigration, with 28 percent of respondents approving of Biden’s handling of the issue compared to 57 percent who disapprove of the immigration job that the president is doing, as slightly more are in the plus column, and slightly more are in the minus.

Fox News doesn’t poll on this issue as frequently, but its results are even more telling — and arguably worse for the president on immigration.

In its most recent poll, conducted between June 23 and 26, 62 percent of respondents disapproved of Biden’s handling of immigration compared to 35 percent who approved — a 27-point difference in the president’s disfavor, but still better than the 29-point deficit in the Reuters/Ipsos poll.

That Fox News polling, of course, was done before reports appeared about the most recent migrant surge in July, but even then, it’s the highest disapproval rating Biden has received in that poll since February 2022, when Americans really began to notice what was happening at the U.S.-Mexico line, and when, again, 62 percent of respondents disapproved of the job the president was doing on immigration.

Similarly, in October 2021, 62 percent of respondents in the Fox News poll disapproved of Biden’s immigration performance. That was in the wake of the administration’s “Del Rio” debacle, as some 15,000 migrants — mostly Haitian nationals — poured across the Rio Grande into a small Texas border town in mid-September, where they were received by overwhelmed Border Patrol agents and started erecting their own lean-tos on the northern riverbanks.

The administration peddled Del Rio off as a one-time event, though later events showed it was the new normal for migrant entries, albeit less concentrated than it had been there.

The Delayed July Border Numbers. Normally, CBP posts its statistics for Southwest border encounters on the 15th of each month, and as I write this (on August 17), they’re two days late. Again, there is plenty of reporting that suggests those numbers are bad, but no official government admission of that fact yet.

It wouldn’t be the first time the administration has slow-walked bad border numbers. In Washington, we refer to bad news delivered after close of business on a Friday night or weekend as a “news dump”, when reporters for major outlets have gone home for the weekend and otherwise-occupied Americans aren’t paying much attention.

There have already been two border-related news dumps under Biden: in October 2022, when monthly numbers for September and the fiscal year numbers for 2022 were delayed until late on Friday, October 21; and again in January, when stats revealing agents had made more apprehensions in December at the Southwest border than in any prior month there in history didn’t appear until Friday the 20th.

The October dump was particularly skeezy because (1) CBP’s numbers confirmed that Border Patrol had set a new annual record for Southwest border apprehensions (more than 2.2 million), and (2) early voting in the 2022 midterm elections was, at that point, already underway in much of the country. As Watergate proved, the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

Perhaps the green eyeshade guys and gals at DHS are simply tabulating the July CBP encounter stats and checking them twice to ensure the American people receive the best data possible, but you’ll forgive my skepticism. I’ve seen this happen twice before, and there are few coincidences in D.C.

The “Silly Season”. July and August are the “silly season” in politics, because although there may be a lot of chatter about potential electoral goings-on, most Americans really don’t care. Many folks are on vacation, pennant races are heating up, and college football and NFL games are right around the corner.

The silliest seasons of all are the Julys and Augusts one year removed from presidential elections. Few in Des Moines likely notice the politicos doing the rounds at the 2023 Iowa State Fair, but major outlets will run endless clips of long-shot Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy rapping to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” there.

With respect to both the candidate and the artist, no one “owns” this particular moment in the stifling Plains’ heat except the corn dog sellers and fried dough vendors.

Concerns about illegal immigration at the Southwest border are, for now, largely concentrated on the center-right to right side of the political spectrum. In the Reuters/Ipsos poll, for example, 17 percent of self-described Republicans considered immigration to be “the most important problem facing the U.S. today”, compared to 8 percent of Independents and 3 percent of Democrats.

Each of the Republican presidential candidates is talking about immigration (naturally), but they are really spending more time beating each other up. And until the field narrows, that’s what they will do.

As I explained in November, many GOP candidates in the 2022 midterm elections likely left votes on the table by shying away from Biden’s record on immigration and the border. Those were big issues in many districts, but some Republicans didn’t want to touch them at all in others.

That won’t be the case come November 2024, because regardless of who the Republican presidential candidate is, he or she will be banging the drum of what’s been going on at the Southwest border and the effects it’s having on cities and towns across the Republic. Even wannabe Republican office holders who long for office solely to reduce the deficit or confront the China threat will be tied to the party line.

Expect the number of poll respondents who don’t have an opinion on Biden’s handling of immigration (15 percent in the Reuters/Ipsos poll either didn’t know or refused to answer that question) to narrow next October. Biden’s approval will likely jump as partisans rally to their candidate, but his disapproval will grow, as well.

The disaster at the Southwest border — which cooled briefly but is heating up again — will provide an opening for 2024 GOP candidates unless things get better quickly, but that won’t happen unless the president changes his border policies — which isn’t likely. Instead, the administration apparently prefers to wait until you’re not paying attention to slip the CBP stats over the late-night transom.