When every Democrat on stage raised their hand to say a government health care plan should cover undocumented immigrants, President Donald Trump tweeted it was the end of the race.
A post-debate CNN poll conducted by SSRS does suggest the majority of Americans (59%) split with the Democratic candidates on the issue and just 38% agreed, although majorities of Democrats and nonwhite adults said undocumented immigrants should have access to government-run insurance.
So that’s it; case closed and game over, right?
Polling on immigration is showing itself to be a briar patch of contradictions and suggests finding a policy remedy that satisfies most Americans will be next to impossible.
There is now wide agreement that the situation at the border is a crisis, for instance. The number of attempted border crossings has surged. A government watchdog found extreme overcrowding in centers set up to process immigrants at the border.
In CNN’s poll, 74% of Americans would use that word, “crisis,” to describe the situation. It’s a dramatic increase from January, when less than half of Americans said it was a crisis.
The increase is mostly among Democrats, 70% of whom now see the situation at the border as a crisis. But they don’t exactly agree with Republicans.
As CNN’s polling director Jennifer Agiesta pointed out, most Democrats (54%) consider it a crisis because of the treatment of migrants as they attempt to cross the border, but most Republicans (63%) say the crisis is the number of migrants attempting to enter the country. Independents break slightly toward the Republican side of the question (35%) compared to 28% who say the crisis is the treatment of migrants.
The Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey announced an immigration plan this week that would virtually end border detention. Julian Castro, the former HUD Secretary, has said he would decriminalize undocumented border crossing.
Almost every Democrat in the poll — 93%! — disapprove of the way migrants are being treated at the border. And here, 60% of Independents are on Democrats’ side. But a clear 62% of Republicans approves of the way migrants are being treated.
What to do with immigrants at the border pits the public against Trump just as much as the health care question pits the public against Democrats.
He has threatened to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and has said raids could start after the 4th of July.
In the poll, a very small minority of 15% said sending all immigrants home should be a priority. Only about a third of Republicans said that should be a priority.
About a third of Republicans also say refugees from Central American countries should be able to seek asylum and nearly two-thirds of Republicans said the government should prioritize a plan that would let some undocumented immigrants have legal status. Far more Democrats (96%) than Republicans (63%) support such a legal status.
In fact, Trump should note that on three out of four of these issues, a majority of the public is on the Democratic side of the issue rather than the GOP side. And although it hasn’t been the subject of a major poll in about a year, views on whether children brought to the country as undocumented immigrants and promised protective status by the Obama administration should be allowed to stay are lopsided in favor of allowing them to remain in the country. Trump has tried to end that program.
Try making a coherent policy for the majorities that:
- agree there’s a crisis, but don’t agree why;
- want immigrants to be treated better at the border;
- want refugees to be able to stay;
- want legal status for undocumented immigrants;
- don’t want to them to have access to a government health insurance option
There’s no single policy that could do all of those things. And it suggests a public that doesn’t agree with either party.