Study: Yes, more immigration means more Democratic votes

Fascinating, unsurprising, and unlikely to change a single mind on either side of the issue. If you’re a Republican fan of comprehensive immigration reform in the McCain mold who sees amnesty as a “gateway” issue to Latinos, nothing here will give you pause. On the contrary, it’ll prove to you that the situation’s more dire than you thought and that the pandering might have to be kicked up a notch to get immigrants to take a fair-minded look at the GOP agenda.

But it’s unfair to pick on amnesty fans here. Follow the last link and read through James Gimpel’s summary and you’ll see that the word “illegal” appears only twice. He’s not talking about illegals, he’s talking about immigrants generally, both legal and otherwise — and everyone of note in the GOP, Ted Cruz included, is in favor of robust legal immigration. (Plenty of Republican voters even support granting citizenship to illegals who are already here, contingent upon meeting certain requirements.) If Gimpel’s right, then the country’s going to turn bluer no matter how the immigration passion play in Congress plays out. The only question, depending upon how much new border security we get, is how much.

Three related findings help explain why immigration reduces the Republican vote:

Immigrants, particularly Hispanics and Asians, have policy preferences when it comes to the size and scope of government that are more closely aligned with progressives than with conservatives. As a result, survey data show a two-to-one party identification with Democrats over Republicans.

By increasing income inequality and adding to the low-income population (e.g. immigrants and their minor children account for one-fourth of those in poverty and one-third of the uninsured) immigration likely makes all voters more supportive of redistributive policies championed by Democrats to support disadvantaged populations.

There is evidence that immigration may cause more Republican-oriented voters to move away from areas of high immigrant settlement leaving behind a more lopsided Democrat majority.

It’s not just votes from immigrants themselves, in other words, that are padding Democratic totals on election day. The wider local population is itself more apt to tilt Democratic as the immigrant numbers increase, compounding the electoral effect. And of course, as a jurisdiction comes to be dominated by one party, that in itself produces compounding effects, e.g., more locals gravitate to that party because it opens doors to them to exert influence. Per Gimpel’s statistical analysis of nine separate elections, a one-percent increase in immigration in America’s 100 largest counties produced a 0.59 percent drop in the GOP’s vote share. (Since 1980, the GOP has lost six percent on average across those counties.) Across all American counties, immigration rising by one percent meant Republican vote totals dropping by 0.46 percent. In Texas, which draws more immigrants than the average state, the effect is marginally greater — a 0.51 percent drop for the GOP for every one-percent rise in immigration. If you’re worried about this from the standpoint of presidential elections specifically rather than American elections generally, that’s the number that should stick in your mind. If and when Texas turns blue, Democrats will own the White House for years to come.

Gimpel’s solution to all of this: There is none, at least not anytime soon. Nominating Latino candidates doesn’t seem to help Republicans (Ted Cruz lost the Latino vote in his Senate race two years ago, even in deep-red Texas), nor does taking different positions on illegal immigration. The only thing to do is … wait.

Ironically, past Republican votes in Congress in favor of a more generous immigration policy have unquestionably bolstered local Democratic majorities, and succeeded in stamping out Republican prospects in once politically competitive locales. This is because Republicans have not converted the legions of Democratic-leaning Latinos who constitute a large share of the immigrant population. Nor can they be expected to win over many Latinos given their weak institutional presence in the locations where new arrivals typically settle. The hope for Republican success with immigrant voters lies mainly with the upward mobility and prosperity of Latinos, Asians and others, something that will occur only with great difficulty given current levels of low-skill, wage-limiting immigration.

Wait a generation or two for low-skilled, Democratic-voting immigrants to have kids who grow up to become middle-class independents and then you’ve got a shot. In the meantime, gulp.