My guess was that some Trumpers would feel betrayed by his walkback on mass deportation since it was, after all, the one thing that set him apart from the rest of the GOP on his core issue. The attitude of seemingly every other #NeverTrumper in media was that no, his fans will gulp down whatever garbage he spoonfeeds them. The early advantage belongs to the cynics:
Some Trump supporters at his Akron rally said they understood why he’s changing his position.
“You do one thing in a primary to get our core people—it’s just American politics,” said Tom Zawistowsi, 62, an Akron Republican in the telecommunications business. But it’s clear that “the American people have said we want something done with the illegals,” Zawistowski said. “If you break the law, there should be consequences.”
“It’s a waste of resources” to try to deport millions of people, said Erik Schramm, 21, a full-time student at Kent State University who voted for Ohio Governor John Kasich in the presidential primary and supports Trump now. “If he wants to back down on things that are over the top, and say, ‘Hey, I’ll work with everybody a little bit’ when it comes to his policies, I think he’s trying to do that.” Schramm has no problem with “a path to citizenship,” he said.
Newt Young of Mansfield, Ohio, said, “It’s going to be very difficult to deport 11 million immigrants. Just don’t let any more in until we sort this out. And if they have any sort of legal problem, deport immediately.”
“I think his position needs to evolve a little bit,” another attendee said. “You can’t deport everyone, not people with families.” Only one person at the rally quoted in the Bloomberg piece said every illegal needs to go home. Go figure.
Is it fair to accuse Trump supporters of having conveniently changed their minds on legalization, though? A quick tour through some polling over the past six months paints a complicated picture. It’s unambiguously true that Trump fans are more likely to support mass deportation than any other demographic, but that doesn’t mean they move in lockstep on this subject. For instance, here’s some Pew data from mid-March:
Nearly 70 percent of Trump voters say immigrants are a “burden” but only 42 percent support a national effort to deport them en masse. Even at the height of Trumpmania during the primaries, 47 percent were prepared to let them stay. That question was asked again more recently, in a CBS survey taken in mid-July. This time 51 percent of Trump supporters, a clear majority, agreed that illegals should be allowed to stay while 44 percent said they should be forced to leave the country. It’s not remotely true that Trumpers are uniformly in favor of mass deportation or that they ever have been.
…But it is true that various polls have showed more of them in favor than opposed. An NBC/SurveyMonkey poll taken in February, a few weeks after primary voting began, found 55 percent of Trump supporters in favor of deporting all illegals. Last September, a Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers found 73 percent of Trump backers supported mass deportation. If you sift through the exit polls for the GOP primaries this spring, you’ll find Trump roundly and consistently beating the competition among Republican voters who preferred mass deportation to letting illegals stay. In New Hampshire Trump took 51 percent of that contingent versus 19 percent for Ted Cruz; in South Carolina he took 47 percent to Cruz’s 24; and in Florida he took 63 percent to Cruz’s 18. Granted, Trump won all three states, but he outperformed his overall share of the electorate significantly among mass-deportation backers. Even in a state where he lost badly, Wisconsin, he still topped Cruz narrowly among the “deport ’em all” crowd. All of which stands to reason: Mass deportation has been at the politically incorrect heart of his signature issue and a substantial number of Trump supporters love him for it. Whether that number is a majority or a very significant minority, it’s large enough that you would expect it to hurt Trump, maybe badly, if the deportation fans are serious about the policy. If they’re not, if this is and was always more about a cult of personality around Trump than in imposing certain policies, then they’ll roll over. We’ll know more next week.
By the way, here’s where he’s at among different racial demographics in the new NBC/SurveyMonkey survey out today, in which he trails Hillary by eight:
If you didn’t know the 2012 exit poll numbers, which group would you guess is killing him there? Black voters? Nope. As lopsided as the number is, Trump is slightly ahead of Romney’s pace of losing 93/6. Latinos? Good guess, but nope. Hillary’s a tiny bit ahead of Obama’s 71/27 margin, but not significantly. Asians or “Other”? Nope and nope. Obama won those groups 73/26 and 58/38, respectively. Trump is ahead of Romney’s clip in both. It’s whites who are making the math impossible for Trump. A nine-point win simply won’t cut it given Democratic margins among nonwhites. Romney won whites, 59/39, but Hillary thus far has managed to cut into some key white subgroups, most notably white women and white college graduates. Which explains why observers think Trump’s outreach to blacks and Latinos over the past 10 days is less about winning those voters and more about impressing those pro-Clinton white subgroups that he’s not the ogre that the Democrats and the media say he is. If he can move white women and white college grads, he’s in business. If he can’t, there’s almost no way he’s going to pull enough nonwhite voters from Hillary to make up the difference.
“Is there any part of the law that you might be able to change that would accommodate those people that contribute to society, have been law-abiding, have kids here?” Hannity asked. “Would there be any rule in your mind?”
“There certainly can be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people,” Trump said in his response. “We want people — we have some great people in this country.”
He followed up by saying this:
That’s what “Deport ‘Em All Donald” is pitching to Republican voters now? It’d be mean to remove an illegal and his family if they’ve been here 20 years? Looks like the real Trump has finally returned.