Two Swing State Polls Show Immigration Is on the Ballot in November

That benefits Trump, but only as long as voters are paying attention to the border

By Andrew R. Arthur on April 26, 2024

Two recently released polls show immigration is on the ballot and may be the deciding issue in the November presidential election. While American voters largely slept on this issue throughout the first three years of the Biden administration, they have received a rude awakening of late — but they could always again lose focus on the border as the election year heats up and the media offers other distractions.

One poll was conducted by Morning Consult for Bloomberg and the other by British opinion firm Redfield & Wilton Strategies (RWS) for the Telegraph (UK). The Morning Consult/Bloomberg poll involved 4,969 registered voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and it has a margin of error of +/- 1 percent. The RWS poll included 5,010 voters in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, with no reported margin of error.

Morning Consult/Bloomberg. The first thing that sticks out in the Morning Consult/Bloomberg poll are two similar questions, one that asks respondents whether the economy is on the right track or wrong track nationally, and one that posits the same question locally.

Just 30 percent of those polled believed that the national economy is on the right track, but 43 percent thought the same about economic conditions in their own states. In other words, the rest of the country is going to hell in a handbasket in the minds of most voters, but in those seven swing states, things could be worse. Overall, though, the economic picture is grim.

Turning to the subject at hand, however, 58 percent of those swing-state voters stated that immigration would be “very important” when they cast their votes in November, and an additional 28 percent of respondents said that it would be “somewhat important”, for an overall importance of 86 percent.

While that’s insightful, a majority of voters polled stated that every issue they were asked about — the economy (96 percent important), infrastructure (81 percent important), housing (85 percent important), crime (91 percent important), climate change (64 percent important), education and schools (87 percent important), guns (79 percent important), abortion (76 percent important), senior services (89 percent important), etc. merited consideration at the ballot box, though there was an intensity gap among those issues.

Much more telling was the next question: “Asking this a different way, what is the single most important issue to you when deciding how to vote in the November 2024 election for U.S. president?”

As Bill Clinton advisor James Carville famously noted during the 1992 presidential campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid”, and not surprisingly, the “Ragin’ Cajun’s” sage advice still applies: Just over a third, 34 percent of swing-state voters, identified the economy as their most important issue come November.

That said, immigration came in second among voters’ key issues, at 15 percent. To underscore how important immigration is to the swing-state electorate, no other issue polled in the double digits, and third place was taken (again, not surprisingly) by abortion, tied with “democracy” at 9 percent.

Immigration is what I do for a living, but if you had told me two years ago that it would edge out abortion as a key voting issue in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, I would have questioned your sanity and/or your analysis. And yet, here we are.

Abortion is shaping up in the minds of many in the national media to be a big deal in the elections in Arizona, where an 1864 law banning the practice was recently given new life by the state’s Supreme Court. (The state House voted this week to repeal it.) And yet, in the Grand Canyon State, 23 percent of registered voters said that immigration was a more important electoral issue than abortion (12 percent).

In fact, immigration came close to edging out the economy among Arizona voters, 26 percent of whom identified the economy as their top issue. Of course, Arizona was the only battleground state on the border in the Morning Consult/Bloomberg poll.

Arizona voters were the most likely to identify immigration as a top issue, while Georgia voters (at 13 percent) were the least likely. That said, it was still the number two issue in the Peach Tree State, trailing only the economy (at 41 percent).

Here’s how the rest of the states lined up: Michigan (the economy 35 percent, immigration second at 14 percent); Nevada (the economy 34 percent, immigration second at 21 percent); North Carolina (the economy 33 percent, immigration second at 14 percent); Pennsylvania (the economy 33 percent, immigration second at 16 percent, but abortion a close third at 13 percent); and Wisconsin (the economy 30 percent, immigration second at 16 percent).

Overall, voters trusted Donald Trump over Joe Biden to handle immigration, by a 52 percent to 32 percent margin (16 percent didn’t trust either of them).

In Georgia, however, that was a 48 percent to 36 percent split, and in Pennsylvania it was 50 percent to 36 percent, while in Nevada it was 57 to 28. The rest of the states largely matched up with the national average on this Biden vs. Trump issue.

RWS. The RWS poll asked slightly different questions and received slightly different results. Unfortunately, its results are mostly graphs, but they still tell a similar tale.

In that one, “the cost of living” was the main concern on voters’ minds in the six states polled, with “the cost of healthcare” coming in second and “illegal immigration” taking third place.

Further, as RWS explains:

immigration . . . continues to be a major problem area for the Biden Administration, [as] majorities of voters in Arizona (54%), Pennsylvania (54%), and Michigan (52%) disapprove of Joe Biden’s job performance, as do pluralities of voters in the other three states polled.

That’s a problem for the incumbent, because 60 percent of RWS respondents in Michigan, 63 percent of voters in Pennsylvania, and 71 percent of those polled in Arizona believe that the United States does not have control over its borders.

On the bright side for the incumbent, he’s only 16 points underwater with voters in Florida with respect to immigration (30 percent approve vs. 46 percent disapprove), whereas in Arizona he’s 27 percentage points in the red (27 percent approve vs. 54 percent disapprove).

Voters in all six states trust Trump more than Biden when it comes to immigration: Arizona — Biden 32 percent to Trump 52 percent; Florida — Biden 31 percent to Trump 52 percent; Georgia — Biden 33 percent to Trump 48 percent; Michigan — Biden 35 percent to Trump 47 percent; North Carolina — Biden 31 percent to Trump 48 percent; and Pennsylvania — Biden 36 percent to Trump 50 percent.

As an aside, Republicans should not sleep on the issue of abortion in Florida, where it is the second most important issue, slightly ahead of immigration but still trailing the economy by a wide margin, nor in my current home state of North Carolina, where there’s a similar trend.

Recent Interest in Immigration. That’s especially true given the fact that abortion has been an evergreen issue throughout my entire lifetime, whereas immigration has only been heating up of late, as voters have become aware (and increasingly concerned) about the chaos at the Southwest border in the last year.

As recently as March 2023, immigration was a third-place finisher when voters were asked to identify their most important issue in that month’s Harvard-Harris poll, at 23 percent, trailing inflation (35 percent) and the economy and jobs (28 percent).

When Harvard-Harris asked the same question one year later, immigration jumped to the top spot, the choice of 36 percent of respondents, ahead of inflation (33 percent) and the economy (23 percent).

A lot could happen between April and November, either distracting voters away from immigration and the border or alternatively directing their attention to those issues. The same is likely not as true among those for whom abortion is and always will be their key concern.

Given that Biden has the first and last word on immigration and the border (at least until January 20, 2025, at a minimum), however, the current president could bolster his electoral hopes by switching course and gaining a handle on illegal immigration — or at least giving the appearance that he has.

I expect that the appearance of gaining control is a lot more likely than the reality, which is why an objectively Biden-friendly media keeps talking about the prospect of him using his “executive” power to bring the border under control.

If there is such a White House move, expect it to be largely for show and linked to some sort of amnesty, like one for the illegal-alien spouses of U.S. citizens that I recently discussed. Should that come to pass, you can bank on the amnesty, but likely not any meaningful enforcement.

Anything can happen in the next six months, but for now it appears that immigration could well decide how voters in key swing states will cast their ballots, which in turn will determine which candidate — Joe Biden or Donald Trump — will be sworn in next January. And for now, that issue favors the 45th president, and his party.