AP poll: 52% say border kids fleeing gang violence shouldn't be treated as refugees

And 53 percent say the U.S. has no moral obligation to offer asylum to people fleeing violence. That’s the opposite of yesterday’s PRRI poll, which had 69 percent(!) saying that the border kids should be treated as refugees.

Any way to square those results?

The responses expose a partisan rift, with 70 percent of Republicans saying Central American children should not be treated as refugees compared with 62 percent of Democrats who believe they should. On whether the United States has an obligation to accept people fleeing violence or political persecution, 66 percent of Republicans say it does not and 57 percent of Democrats say it does…

Americans who are closely following news about the wave of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally in South Texas are less receptive, with only four in ten saying they should qualify as refugees. Among those who say they aren’t paying as much attention, roughly half believe they should be treated as refugees…

Americans with children under 18 are evenly split on whether the children crossing the border should be treated as refugees, with 49 percent taking each side. Those without young children tilt against refugee status, 53 percent to 45 percent…

Among Hispanics, 66 percent say children crossing the border who claim they are fleeing gang violence should be treated as refugees. Slightly fewer, 54 percent, said they see a moral obligation to accept people fleeing violence or persecution.

I’m tempted to say that the topline numbers might sober up Democrats opposed to expedited deportations of illegal immigrant children, but it won’t. Their own base, including/especially Latinos, is solidly behind granting the kids refugee status. If you’re a congressional Dem trying to figure out whom to pander to, you’re better off passing your own party’s litmus test than equivocating in hopes of attracting skeptical centrists who might not care much about this issue either way.

I’ll give you three theories for why the AP and PRRI results are so different. Theory one: The PRRI question that drew 69 percent support asked people if they agreed that the kids should be treated as refugees and allowed to stay “if U.S. authorities determine it is NOT safe for them to return to their home country.” The AP question, by contrast, asks whether “children entering the U.S. illegally who say they are fleeing gang violence” should be allowed to stay as refugees. PRRI’s phrasing suggests an objective, authoritative finding by the government that the kids are in danger; AP’s phrasing emphasizes that they came here illegally and suggests merely taking the kids’ word that they’re in danger back home. Maybe that’s the difference. It could be that, if a neutral fact-finder affirms that they’re facing violence, support for refugee status skyrockets.

Theory two: PRRI didn’t provide a partisan breakdown of its sample so there’s no way to tell if they oversampled Dems or undersampled Republicans. (The partisan split in the AP poll was 40D/38R/8I.) Maybe, though, for whatever reason, the two polls have drastically different samples in terms of the number of people who are following the border crisis closely. The AP found that the more interested people are in this story, the more opposed they are to refugee status. Which makes sense: If all you know is that kids are coming across the border, without much of a sense of how many, how old they are, etc, you might reflexively be more lenient about taking them in. Could be that PRRI’s poll ended up with a larger group of low-information voters than the AP’s and that pushed support for asylum upward.

Theory three: Read the fine print for both polls and you’ll see that AP conducted an online survey whereas PRRI did phone interviews. In some polls that might not matter, but in this one it could: Respondents may be reluctant to tell a person on the other end of the phone that they want endangered kids deported for fear of being judged — but they’ll tell a computer program. That’s something to bear in mind going forward as more polls on this subject come out. Are the online-only polls showing stronger support for deportation than the phone-only polls are? If so, how is this issue likely to play out in the voting booth, where there’s no one around to judge you?

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on February 04, 2023