Opinion

Most Republican Voters on Super Tuesday Said They Support Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants

Arkansas Republican primary voters support amnesty. Georgia Republican primary voters support amnesty. Oklahoma Republican primary voters support amnesty. Tennessee Republican primary voters support amnesty. Texas Republican primary voters support amnesty. Virginia Republican primary voters support amnesty. Every states’ Republican primary voters on Super Tuesday support amnesty — except Alabama’s.

If you define amnesty, as immigration hawks in the GOP often do, as providing any type of pathway to legalization to any part of America’s illegal immigrant population, exit polls of Republican primary voters in six states Tuesday show a majority or plurality support it.

Not every states’ exit polls included a question about “offer[ing] legal status” to “illegal immigrants working in the U.S.,” but of the seven states that did include that question Tuesday, majorities of Republican primary voters in three states — Virginia (59 percent), Georgia (53 percent) and Oklahoma (50 percent) — registered support for an amnesty of illegal immigrant workers, as opposed to having them “deported to [their] home country,” according to numbers compiled by CNN.

Narrow pluralities of Republican primary voters in three other states — Tennessee (49 percent to 45 percent), Arkansas (47 percent to 44 percent) and Texas (47 percent to 43 percent) — said they support a pathway to legalization, as opposed to deportation, for illegal immigrant workers.

Only Alabama Republican primary voters registered support for deporting America’s illegal immigrant population (50 percent to 45 percent).

This is in line with the results in the two previous primary states where exit poll questions included a query about amnesty. A majority of Republican primary voters in both South Carolina (53 percent) and New Hampshire (56 percent) told exit pollsters they support a path to legalization for illegal immigrant workers in the U.S.

Exit polls for Minnesota, Colorado and Alaska had not yet been released by the time of this writing.

If these results are surprising — and they shouldn’t necessarily be — it is because of how immigration has been discussed by Republican presidential candidates on the campaign trail. Both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have called for the deportation of all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the U.S., even going as far as to support a deportation force to hunt them down.

But so far it appears most Republican primary voters don’t support such measures, at least if the presidential primary exit polls are accurate.

So why then is Trump doing so well?

One possibility is the Republican front-runner’s success has little to do with his position on immigration, or at least the deportation aspect of it. Most exit polls released so far also show that while Republican primary voters generally support “amnesty,” they don’t rank immigration as their top concern. Depending on the state, only 8 to 12 percent of Republican primary voters said immigration was a more important issue than the economy, terrorism and government spending.

This article has been updated to reflect new exit poll totals. 

Follow Jamie on Twitter