Horowitz: Harsh Anti-Immigrant Campaign Rhetoric Not Swaying Most Americans

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

 

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Despite the fact harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and demagogic misrepresentations of undocumented immigrants have dominated the campaign debate and received the lion’s share of media coverage over the last year or so, most Americans remain welcoming of immigrants and supportive of comprehensive immigration reform.

These are the findings of a newly released national poll with the massive sample size of 42,000, enabling accurate and rich sub-group analysis, conducted by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute.  Consistent with other national polls conducted over the past year or so, more than six in ten Americans in the new survey say immigrants who are currently living here illegally should be provided a path to citizenship if they meet certain requirements, and an additional more than 1-in-6 Americans say these immigrants should be allowed to become permanent legal residents but not citizens. This is in comparison to, only about one in five who say “illegal immigrants should be identified and deported. “

This support extends throughout the country with a majority backing a path to citizenship in every State but South Dakota.  And even 52% of Republicans nationally indicating agreement.

Further, half of Americans say that “newcomers from other countries strengthen American society”, while only about 1-in-3 say “they represent a threat to American customs and values.” It is the case that on this question that a narrow majority of Republicans (53%) view immigration as a cultural threat as opposed to 33 percent of Independents and 24 percent of Democrats.

This new survey confirms a stark generational divide on immigration. Younger voters are overwhelmingly in favor of a path to citizenship and view new immigrants as assets to the nation, while older voters are less supportive of a path to citizenship and more likely to view newcomers as a threat.  Even younger Republican voters and younger white evangelical Protestants share positive attitudes on immigration-admittedly not as positive as Democrats and Independents.

In summing up the poll results, Dr. Robert P Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute  said, “While the campaigns of the leading Republican presidential candidates have been fueled by antipathy toward immigrants, these views are not reflective of the general public’s mindset and may not resonate among younger Republicans and white evangelical Protestants.”

It is encouraging that the too often unchallenged anti-immigrant claims and unworkable policy ideas, such as deporting all 11 million undocumented immigrants, that have filled the airwaves and taken over the national conversation have failed to persuade Americans.  Most of us recognize that comprehensive immigration reform is the better way,, honoring our values and enabling the nation to realize more of the renewal, innovation and growth which throughout our history has always followed a more expansive, welcoming approach.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island

 

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