Immigration is the number one answer when Americans are asked what issue is the most pressing problem facing the country, according to Gallup’s latest poll.
In fact, the share of people who say immigration is the most important issue is higher now that at any time in the past 17 years that Gallup has been asking the question.
The Gallup poll, released Wednesday, found that 22 percent of Americans said in July that immigration tops their list of concerns, edging out the 19 percent who said “dissatisfaction with the government.” That is an eight-point bump since June, when just 14 percent put immigration at the top of the list.
The sharp rise comes as the nation is embroiled in a debate over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including a recent crackdown on illegal border crossings and tighter asylum standards that exclude most Central American migrants. The Trump administration says the tough approach is needed to deter illegal immigration, but activists and the president’s political opponents say the policies are cruel and, in some cases, illegal. (RELATED: Trump Administration Applies Sessions’ Strict Asylum Standards To ‘Credible Fear’ Process)
Rising concern over immigration is a bipartisan phenomenon, according to the Gallup poll. Among Republicans, Democrats, and self-described independents, more than twice as many respondents in July said immigration was the top issue as they did in August 2017.
Even so, the share of Republicans citing immigration as the most pressing issue was about twice as large as the share of Democrats, according to Gallup. Among Republicans, 35 percent said immigration was their top concern, while 18 percent of Democrats said the same.
The discrepancy could play to the advantage of the GOP as it seeks to retain majorities in both the House and Senate. GOP candidates who identify with Trump’s immigration policies will likely enjoy strong support heading into the November elections because Republican voters continue to place a comparatively high importance on immigration.
“If the general immigration focus continues through the fall, GOP candidates may be able to fire up the enthusiasm of the part of their base highly concerned about immigration and that in turn favors the Republican approach to this issue,” Gallup noted in an analysis of its survey.
The Gallup poll is based on telephone interviews conducted July 1-11 with a random sample of 1,033 adults in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points and a 95 percent confidence level.
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