With the votes counted in New Hampshire and Trump and Sanders the clear winners, I want to take a close look at the exit polls and consider what they tell us about views on immigration.
The exit polls are based on interviews with voters as they leave the polling places. In other words, these are polls of people who have actually voted. They tend to be the most accurate polls of the electorate. In the New Hampshire Republican primary, immigration was a major and divisive issue and Republican voters were polled on it.
The most direct question on immigration would seem to have a favorable answer for immigration reform. When asked about what should be done with undocumented immigrants, 56% of Republican primary voters said that they should be offered a chance to legalize their status, while 41% said that they should be deported. This sounds good, especially considering the constant talk about building walls and rounding up undocumented immigrants in the lead-up to the voting.
The problem is that most of those Republican voters who support sensible immigration reform are not particularly passionate about it. Only 15% of Republican voters said that immigration was their top issue. Among those who said it was the most important issue of the election, 52% said they voted for Trump and 21% said they voted for Cruz. We can extrapolate from this that nearly three-quarters of those whose immigration views impacted their choice of candidates had negative views of immigration reform and favored a deportation-only strategy.
A second problem for immigration advocates is the climate of fear around terrorism. Approximately 90% of Republican primary voters said they were worried about a major terrorist attack on the United States. This fear translates into a desire for action, with 64% of those polled supporting a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
As the campaign for president continues, millions of dollars will be spent to arouse and mobilize the anti-immigrant voter for electoral gain. This is likely to leave a lasting legacy of antagonism towards immigrants.
Source: The New York Times.