Analysis: In Obama’s economy, immigrants outpace native-born Americans

Public attitudes toward immigration

The damage caused by Obama’s immigration-boosting policies is especially high for Obama’s base of African-American voters, partly because they’re more likely to be unemployed and competing for jobs against low-skill immigrants. In fact, less than half of young African-American men outside the military, jail or college have full-time jobs, according to the BLS.

Polling suggests swing-voting Midwestern whites dislike Obama’s outspoken support for illegal immigrants.

Fifty-seven percent of “white working-class Americans … agree that illegal immigrants taking jobs that would otherwise be filled by American citizens are responsible for our current economic problems,” according to an August survey of 2,501 Americans by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The research institute is a left-of-center group. Its board is chaired by progressive stalwart Rabbi David Saperstein, and also includes Richard Cizik, director of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

Their poll is supported by Quinnipiac University, which showed that 27 percent of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania said Obama’s de-facto amnesty announcement made them less likely to vote for the president’s re-election.

Roughly 11.5 percent of voters in the two states said the policy made them more supportive of Obama and 59.5 percent said it made no difference, according to the survey.

The Quinnipiac survey also showed a 22 percent “less likely” response in Florida, and a 17 percent “more likely” response.

Those results are credible because — unlike high-skill university graduates — the employment opportunities and wages of low-skill workers are constricted by intense competition from low-skill immigrants, both legal and illegal.

Currently, almost half of low-skill workers are immigrants, and even a progressive group recently admitted the competition pressures down their wages.

“In the group [of U.S. workers] that remains without a high-school degree, half of them are immigrants, so [downward wage-pressure] would be less if we had fewer immigrants,” Lawrence Mishel, president of the left-wing Economic Policy Institute, told the Daily Caller.

A Sept. 11 report by Mishel’s EPI showed that the wages of unskilled workers tend to rise by 2 percent when unemployment drops by 1 percent.

Only 40 percent of high school dropouts and 54 percent of high school graduates in the U.S. have full-time or part-time jobs, according to an August 2012 BLS report. By contrast, 70 percent of those with at least four years of college are employed.

Obama’s willingness to help illegal immigrants is especially provocative, said Weaver, founder of Communications Counsel.

“My sense of where voters are is that they would be much more aggravated by people jumping the line,” he said. People are already worried about unemployment and outsourcing, both of which are threats to workers’ living standards, he said.

The immigration issue “may also create cross-pressures with people who might otherwise be Barack Obama voters,” he added.

Romney’s choice

So far, Mitt Romney hasn’t highlighted Obama’s vulnerability on immigration, partly because he’s trying to build support among the small number of persuadable Hispanics, and potentially to avoid a breach with wealthy employers who want cheap labor.

During a Sep. 19 town hall meeting hosted by the Spanish-language Univision television network, Romney tried to boost his Hispanic support by calling for increased emphasis on family reunification. That policy, long favored by Democrats, tends to boost immigration of low-skill Hispanics.

“I want to also make sure … we provide instead the chance to pull families together [and] I want that to be the favored system for immigration,” Romney said.

“I also believe that we should have temporary work visas consistent with the needs of the employment community,” he added.

Despite Romney’s targeted outreach, polls show Obama is solidifying his commanding lead among low income Hispanics, even though more than 10 percent of Hispanics are unemployed.

A Pew Research Center survey last month showed Obama with support from 69 percent of Hispanics, up two points from 2008.

Only 24 percent of Hispanics say they’re supporting Romney, down from 31 percent who supported Sen. John McCain, said the survey, released Sept. 19.

Also, Romney is already leading among middle-class voters by 14 percent, leaving him less opportunity to collect support from more of them, said a September poll conducted by Politico and George Washington University.

Critically, the Pew report showed that Romney is trailing among working-class whites by 36 to 44 percent in the Midwest, despite winning their vote in other regions.

Romney should use the immigration issue to pursue those persuadable blue-collar voters, rather than from the fewer uncommitted middle-class or Hispanic voters, said one GOP operative. “You fish where the fish are,” he said.

Romney is already pushing hard for these blue-collar voters. Last week, he campaigned in Ohio with Mike Rowe, the star of the successful “Dirty Jobs” TV show.

However, Romney’s ability to use immigration to boost his support among working-class voters will be curbed by the Democrats’ portrayal of him as a wealthy, out-of-touch elitist, said GOP advocates.