Politics

New Polls: Obama Losing, GOP Gaining, On Immigration

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Two more polls show that Americans are becoming more hawkish toward immigration while they watch President Barack Obama’s administration welcome a growing wave of at least 100,000 Central American illegal immigrants.

The public’s increasing skepticism about Obama’s immigration actions are spiking the November political risk for Democrats, especially if Obama moves ahead with his plans to enact a massive amnesty of several million illegal immigrants.

Public approval of Obama’s immigration policies has slipped from 22 percent in May, to 18 percent in July, according to a late July poll of 1,044 Americans by Associated Press and GfK Public Affairs.

Disapproval climbed from 43 percent to 57 percent, marking a 18-point shift away from Obama, said the poll.

The remaining 25 percent of respondents didn’t care much about the immigration issue.

The AP/GfK poll also showed a slim majority supports a legal change to accelerate the repatriation of border-crossers.

Fifty-one percent of respondents in the poll said they favor “changing the law so that all children entering the country illegally … can be sent back to their home countries by border patrol agents without going through a deportation hearing.” But only 18 percent agree with opposition from Obama and allied Democrats to that change.

A GOP-drafted bill that would change the law will be voted up or down on Thursday in the House.

The public’s hawkishness was highlighted by a AP/GfK question that showed that a clear majority of Americans, 53 percent to 44 percent, believe Americans do “not have a moral obligation to offer asylum to people who come to the U.S. to escape violence or political persecution in their home country.”

The public’s attitude toward legal immigration has shifted by 25 points in only two months, according to a July 29 poll by the D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute, which generally promotes a pro-immigration perspective.

In May, 61 percent of respondents to an earlier Public Religion poll agreed that “Immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.” Just 29 percent agreed that “Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and healthcare,” said the earlier poll.

But those 61 percent to 29 percent scores shifted sharply after early June, once the public noticed the flood of Central Americans across the borders and into the welcoming arms of Obama’s federal government.

The new poll showed that only 49 percent of the July respondents approve of immigration, and 42 percent disapprove of immigration, despite the social pressure on Americans to welcome immigrants.

That’s a 25-point swing in only three months.

The AP/GfK poll showed that almost half the public distrusts both parties on the immigration issue.

But the poll also showed a 10-point shift toward trust in the GOP, while many GOP candidates were adopting a more pro-American stance.

Numerous GOP candidates are responding to the growing skepticism about immigration by slamming their rivals as soft on immigration.

Those candidates include several who tried to distance themselves from the hot button-issue a few months ago, such as Ben Sasse in Nebraska, Dave Perdue in Georgia and Scott Brown in New Hampshire.

They’re following the example of Virginia economics professor Dave Brat, who used the immigration issue to win a June primary against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Several recent polls show rising public opposition to Obama’s immigration policies, among GOP voters, swing voters and Hispanic voters.

However, the trend is partly obscured by the profusion of business-funded polls, which are carefully crafted to maximize the public’s apparent support for amnesty and higher levels of immigration.

The new AP/GfK poll also showed that immigration is also becoming a much more visible issue, ensuring that Obama’s pending amnesty is likely to be widely recognized.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said illegal immigration is an “extremely or very serious problem,” while only 10 percent said it is not serious.

Immigration — both illegal and illegal — is now rated as extremely or very important by 62 percent of respondents, up from 52 percent in March.

Unsurprisingly, the new AP/GfK poll also included some pro-immigration responses that could reassure some Democrats that it is relatively safe to support Obama’s planned regulatory amnesty. For example, the poll showed that 51 percent of respondents favored “providing a legal way for illegal immigrants already in the United States to become U.S. citizens.”

But that result clashes with much of the other data in the poll. The explanation may lie in the details.

That 51 percent support for amnesty includes two groups — a group of 18 percent who “strongly favor” the amnesty, and a group of 34 percent who “somewhat favor” the amnesty.

That 18 percent is mostly composed of Obama’s core supporters, while the group of 34 percent may be more willing to shift their views, depending on public sentiment.

In contrast, 25 percent of Americans told the pollster that they strongly oppose “a legal way for illegal immigrants already in the United States to become U.S. citizens.” Another 21 percent said they “somewhat oppose” the amnesty.

Democrats can also find good news in the Public Religion poll. But the poll skewed its results by telling respondents that the Central American migrants are “children.”

However, at least 85 percent of the youths who traveled with smugglers are teenagers seeking to join parents or relatives living — often illegally — in the United States. The poll also did not mention the that the number of young people has reached almost 60,000 since last October, or triple the prior year’s inflow. It did not mention that an additional 50,000 Central American adults, youths and children have arrived since October in so-called “family units.”

The poll skewed the results further by asking the respondents to either pick the tough choice of deporting children, or the easy choice of treating them as refugees if government officials decide they can’t safely return to their home country.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said the “children” should be deported, while 69 percent said they should be allowed to stay until it is safe to go home.

Follow Neil on Twitter