In the past year, there’s been a whole lot of speculation about “what’s happening in the heartland”, whether “Democrats are listening to ‘Middle America’”, and if “Donald Trump is ‘the working man’s President’”. What’s often been lost in the speculation is what Trump is actually doing, whether his immigration agenda actually aligns with that of most Americans, and who’s truly being harmed by his policies. I’ve been trying my best to shine a light on these points, but we now have some new polling data on how voters in key swing districts view Trump and the upcoming election. So put that speculation aside for a moment, as we have some real numbers to dive into.
At first glance, it’s another poll showing a big “Blue Wave” forming for Democrats in 2018
Today, Latino Decisions released a new poll they conducted for America’s Voice and a coalition of other progressive organizations. The poll was of 2,045 voters in 61 of the most competitive U.S. House districts in the nation, including Nevada’s 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts.
First off, their toplines largely mirror those of The Washington Post-George Mason University national poll released earlier this month. In their poll Democrats had a 47-37% lead over Republicans on the generic Congressional ballot nationwide, and Democrats had a slightly wider 49-37% advantage in the 58 competitive House races they oversampled. In the Latino Decisions poll released today, Democrats have a 51-38% lead over Republicans in the 61 House seats they sampled. And according to the Latino Decisions poll, Donald Trump’s ongoing fight against immigrant communities is a major reason for this wide Democratic lead.
But that’s not all: Voters want a more comprehensive, humane, and progressive approach to immigration reform
During a conference call with reporters, Latino Decisions Co-founder and Managing Partner Matt Barreto walked everyone through the numbers, which included an oversample of at least 400 interviews with white, Latinx, African-American, Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), and Native American voters (though the Native American oversample included all 50 states to reach sufficient amount of voters).
Though the Democrats hold a strong 51-38% overall lead, Republicans still hold a 48-41% edge among white voters in these 61 districts. While this is a major improvement from the 60-38% lead Republicans had among white voters nationally in 2014, what puts Democrats over the top are the huge leads they have among voters of color. Democrats lead 52-32% among Native American voters, 63-26% among AAPI voters, 64-25% among Latinx voters, and 77-13% among African-American voters.
While Democrats enjoy a fairly large lead in this poll, humane immigration policies fare even better. The survey shows 79-21% overall support for the DREAM Act, 73-27% support for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and 66-34% support for legislation that welcomes immigrants over the Trump administration’s campaign to attack immigrants and blame them for America’s social ills. In addition, voters in the 61 competitive districts oppose border wall 64-36%, oppose denying asylum to domestic violence victims 68-32%, and oppose Trump’s family separation policy 67-33%. 74% of these voters blame Trump for the recent family separation scandal, while only 54% place blame on Democrats.
“Harry Reid didn’t shy away from his support for the DREAM Act, and for comprehensive immigration reform. Voters knew where he stood, and where his opponent Sharron Angle stood.”
– Matt Barreto, Latino Decisions
When we see this poll and other recent polls on Americans’ view of immigration reform and the upcoming election, the actual numbers stand in stark contrast to the seemingly endless hand-wringing among media pundits about how “Democrats are making a big mistake” and “avoiding inconvenient truths” on “America’s illegal immigration crisis”. During the press call, Indivisible National Policy Director Angel Padilla pointed to these poll results as he pushed back on this long-held trope: “Protecting immigrant communities is not a ‘fringe issue’. It is a potent issue across the country, and it’s a winning issue.”
Matt Barreto also chimed in, and he used Nevada’s own famous 2010 U.S. Senate race as a prominent example of Democrats winning by embracing immigrant rights instead of shunning them: “Harry Reid didn’t shy away from his support for the DREAM Act, and for comprehensive immigration reform. Voters knew where he stood, and where his opponent Sharron Angle stood.” And of course, Reid went on to win what would be that last election of his political career.
So why is still up for debate among the pundits and “political professionals”? Why is Senator Dean Heller (R) ditching his past moderation on immigration and hitching himself onto the “Trump Train” of white grievance politics instead? And why on earth did Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) and 17 other House Democrats vote for a resolution endorsing ICE’s war on immigrant communities last Thursday?
“[Democrats] need to show they care about immigrant communities. Voting and talking like Republicans is not a positive way to go forward.”
– Frank Sharry, America’s Voice
When I asked about that last point, America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry offered this advice: “The best way to approach this is to lean into the issue, to do what works.” And after complimenting Rosen and most other Democrats for advocating more humane immigration policies than the party did in the past, he issued this warning: “Should Rosen run away from these issues? No. They need to […] show they care about immigrant communities. Voting and talking like Republicans is not a positive way to go forward.”
Perhaps Rosen has already begun to back away from that ICE vote, as she’s recently signed onto letters to the administration demanding better treatment of immigrants being detained. Still, I was surprised to see Rosen vote for that resolution last week. Considering her own past actions on immigration, as well as her campaign’s latest attack on Heller as #SenatorSpineless, why cast a vote that seemed so… spineless?
No doubt, Democrats across the nation have come under increased scrutiny over their stance on immigration and how they differentiate themselves from Trump and the Republican Party on this issue. As they continue to search for a message that works, why not look at these numbers and other recent polls that show most Americans are very receptive to more humane, inclusive, and possibly even progressive immigration policies? Not only might that actually be the right thing to do, but it might even win them some votes. Go figure.