Every few months Pew cranks out a poll showing GOPers surprisingly warm to the idea of letting illegals stay, and every few months we scratch our heads and try to make sense of the numbers. I gave it my best shot back in June, the last time they surveyed this issue. Ask Republicans about various aspects of immigration and on most them you’ll see just the sort of border hawkishness you’d expect. They think that legal status for illegals rewards wrongdoing; they think immigrants are more likely to burden the country than benefit it; and a plurality would prefer to see legal immigration reduced than kept at the same levels or increased. Same deal with today’s poll: A clear majority of 53 percent of GOPers support ending birthright citizenship and fully 73 percent want a wall built on the border with Mexico (up from 62 percent in 2011). By comparison, just 23 and 29 percent of Democrats, respectively, agree. Republicans are exactly the sort of border enforcers we thought they were, and they’ve remained solidly so despite Dems weakening on enforcement over time. Democrats are 10 points less likely to say they want a border fence than they were in 2007 and 13 points less likely to support ending birthright citizenship.
The parties are, in order words, highly polarized. Except, oddly enough, on the most basic question related to amnesty.
Thirty-seven percent of Republicans are willing to give illegals a path to citizenship and another 28 percent are willing to give them a path to permanent residency provided that they meet “certain requirements,” which usually means learning to speak English and paying back taxes. Even among self-described conservative Republicans, 61 percent are willing to let them stay permanently by some legal mechanism. That is … not what you’d expect, especially after the eruption of Trumpmania. In fact, here’s the most amazing number from Pew’s poll today:
Republicans are more likely to support amnesty post-Trump than they were before he got in. Huh. Maybe that’s statistical noise or maybe some Republican centrists are moving further towards the center on immigration as a backlash to Trump, whether because they object to his “deport everyone” rhetoric or because they’re worried about the party’s image with Latino voters and are hoping that the Republican Congress corrects for it with legislation. Or maybe some element of GOPers has simply given up and resigned itself to an ever leftward political drift in the U.S. Here’s a depressing result in another poll out today, from YouGov, when people are asked whether they think America will be more liberal or more conservative in 25 years. Top line is “more liberal,” second line is “about the same,” third line is “more conservative”:
Republicans are more likely to think the country will grow more liberal than Democrats are. Gulp.
The one consolatory detail in the Pew data on amnesty is that it doesn’t necessarily mean Republicans would agree to legal status in isolation. They almost certainly wouldn’t. If there really is 66 percent support on the right for legal status, most of it is likely would require better border security as a prerequisite. It’d be nice if Pew polled that question too next time.