Donald Trump's overturn of the DACA program has been unpopular, and reaction to the Cotton-Perdue plan to change immigration law has been lukewarm. The lack of enthusiasm is not surprising: surveys show strong support for allowing people who were brought here as children (or even adults who have been here for a while) to stay, and a fairly even division of opinion on whether the number of legal immigrants should be reduced . Immigration was Trump's signature issue--did it actually help him? And if so, how?
I think the answer can be found in a survey sponsored by CNBC and conducted in late October 2016. It asked "If Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton is elected president, do you think the number of illegal immigrants who come to the United States will increase, stay about the same, or decrease?" The results:
Increase 42% 6%
Same 45% 31%
Decrease 10% 61%
In 2009, a CNN/ORC poll asked "Would you like to see the number of illegal immigrants currently in this country increased, decreased, or remain the same?" Only 3% wanted to see it increased, and 73% wanted a decrease. So Trump had a big advantage on this issue. By comparison, here is what people expected on some other things that Trump had talked about.
"If ... do you think your federal income taxes would increase, stay about the same, or decrease? "
Increase 43% 29%
Same 42% 42%
Decrease 6% 19%
"If ... do you think that our trade agreements with other countries will become more favorable to US interests, stay about the same, or become less favorable to US interests?"
More favorable 19% 32%
Same 45% 18%
Less favorable 28% 41%
There was also a question on "which candidate for president would you say has the better policies and approaches to ...Increase your wages," and 46% said Clinton, against 32% for Trump.
It seems that most people thought that Trump would vigorously enforce existing immigration law and Clinton would not. The Republican platform talked a lot about the need to enforce the law--"our highest priority, therefore, must be to secure our borders and all ports of entry and to enforce our immigration laws"--and said nothing about changing them. Trump frequently talked about how we had "open borders" and "people pouring across the border." Clinton and the Democrats did little to counter this picture. The Democratic platform spoke of "our broken immigration system" and talked about the need for "comprehensive immigration reform," but their only comment on enforcement was that it "must be humane and consistent with our values." This raises a question of why they didn't point to the substantial rise in deportations under the Obama administration. I will take that up in a future post.
[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]