Interesting, and encouraging. Now convince me that either the White House or its friends in Congress really care. Immigration for them is about pleasing one particular demographic group long-term even if it ends up irritating other demographic groups short-term. They can probably tolerate a backlash among white working-class if it’s broad but ephemeral or durable but narrow, knowing that the gains they make among Latinos will offset those votes.
But what if the backlash is broad and durable?
This may be a nation of immigrants (and 82% of the public agree that it is), but the President’s plan for executive action on immigration clearly does not sit well with many Americans. Democrats support the President’s decision to use an executive order to delay deportation proceedings for parents of U.S. citizens, but 51% of independents and 80% of Republicans oppose it.
Most independents and nearly all Republicans say the President should have waited for Congress to act on immigration – even though majorities think it is unlikely Congress will take action soon.
The President’s immigration actions has helped him at least with one group – one that was clearly disappointed in his previous activity on immigration – the country’s Hispanics. Two in three Hispanics consistently have supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and approve of the plan President Obama put forth in his speech last week.
By more than two to one, they approve of the President’s executive order.
Ten months ago, 55 percent of Americans favored a path to citizenship for illegals. As of last month, that number had dropped below majority support and landed at 47 percent. After the summer’s border crisis and O going rogue on executive amnesty, go figure that people would be more skittish about normalizing citizenship for lawbreakers any further.
In fact, there’s another political scenario for Democrats: What if the backlash to O’s order is short-lived … but so is the boost they’ve gotten for it from Latinos? Scrolling through the crosstabs, I was surprised by how equivocal some of the reactions to various immigration policies were among that group. For instance, when given a choice of letting illegals stay and apply for citizenship, stay but not be allowed to apply, and sending illegals home, just 51 percent of Latinos favored the first option. Another 20 percent favored the second and 29 percent favored the third, meaning that even among that demographic, the split on whether a path to citizenship should be offered is just 51/49.
More noteworthy ambivalence:
Hispanics support Obama’s order 55/29 (Democrats generally support it 69/16 whereas white voters oppose it 31/54) but when asked whether O should have waited until Congress was ready to act or acted on his own, they’re dead even at 39 percent each. By comparison, blacks split 22/44 on that issue whereas Democrats split 17/58. Why the ambivalence among Latino voters? Is it because they’re paying closer attention to the issue and realize that an executive order can be undone with a pen stroke while a statute passed by Congress can’t? Or are they more ambivalent on civic grounds, knowing that the president can’t rightly change policy this broadly on his own? Either way, if you’re a GOP establishmentarian worried that there’s no room left now for a big amnesty pander in Congress, you can take comfort in those numbers. There’s still plenty of appetite among Latinos for a congressional solution here, O’s order notwithstanding.
One other intriguing data point — the degree to which Obama’s power grab has politicized the entire practice of executive orders:
The president’s power to issue pardons is as clear-cut an executive prerogative as you’ll find under Article II, but thanks to suspicions fueled by Obama’s encroachment on separation of powers, not even a majority of Republicans acknowledge it right now. In fact, when asked whether executive orders are always constitutional, always unconstitutional, or “it depends” (the correct answer, of course), fully 39 percent of GOPers and 22 percent of independents now say “unconstitutional.” That’s where we are six years later after Obama promised to restore faith in government. And in fairness, while “always unconstitutional” isn’t correct, it’s not an irrational response under the circumstances. If you can’t trust Obama to respect separation of powers, your best strategy to rein him in might be to reflexively deny him as much authority as possible in hopes that that might lead him to choose more modest incursions on Congress, at least.
Exit question via Byron York: Is Hillary Clinton really the right candidate to preserve Obama’s support among minorities while winning back working-class whites?