Austin Klemmer, a graduate student at the Korbel School, wrote the following blog on immigration in the 2016 election for his American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy winter class taught by Professor Floyd Ciruli.
Trump Continues to Set the Tone for Immigration in the GOP Race
A day out from the New Hampshire primary, and frontrunner Donald Trump is still surging in the polls. Real Clear Politics puts Trump 17 points ahead in New Hampshire, which likely has to do with his tough stance on illegal immigration. Republicans in the state take a hard line on illegal immigrants: according to a CBS poll from November, 86% of New Hampshire’s likely GOP primary voters feel illegal immigrants should be penalized or deported.
But New Hampshire is one state, and Donald Trump’s boldness could come back to haunt him. Nationally, few agree with Trump’s strict stance on deporting the 11 million immigrants currently in the country. On the contrary, a CBS and NY Times news poll found that 58% of Americans support a path to citizenship for those immigrants.
Regardless, others in the field have had to walk a fine line, trying to win over support from Trump’s right-wing base without undermining their appeal in the general election. In Saturday’s debate, for instance, Marco Rubio scaled back his support for the path to citizenship, focusing instead on the need to secure the border. Trump’s shifting of the narrative towards extreme platforms, especially on immigration, could jeopardize the Republicans come November.
51% of independent voters oppose providing asylum to Syrian refugees—support for Trump’s proposal to bar all Muslims, though, was far less favorable. If, over the coming months, the world sees more events like New Year’s in Cologne or the attack in San Bernardino, Republicans across the board can count on continued support for their closed-door policies.
For the current contenders to win the nomination while preserving their chances in the general, they should continue to measure Trump’s boldness with moderate stances on illegal immigrants and strong but level-headed opposition to asylum for Syrians in the U.S.