The answer, I think, depends on how you define “mainstream” — and, actually, how you define “Trump’s views” The big headline from yesterday’s “Meet the Press” interview is that he wants to deport all illegals. Is that a mainstream view? Byron York points to a recent study in which subjects were given a choice of seven options on immigration policy and finds that the most popular was — ta da — a closed border and mass deportations.
But “most popular” in this case means less than 25 percent support.
The largest single group, 24.4 percent, supported the most draconian option — closed borders and mass deportation — that is dismissed by every candidate in the race, including Trump. Add in the next group that supported Option Six, which would allow only a “small number” of highly skilled immigrants to enter the U.S. and also involve mass deportations, and the number increased to 38.2 percent. Then add Option Five, which would allow only highly skilled immigrants while physically blocking the border, and the number increased to 55.2 percent.
Trump’s immigration stance appears to fall somewhere between Option Five and Option Six, perhaps a little closer to the latter. It’s probably fair to say that, if Broockman and Ahler are correct, a majority of Americans — not just Republican voters, but all Americans — hold views that are consistent with Trump’s position, or are even more restrictive. Opponents like Graham portray Trump’s immigration position as far out of the mainstream, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
You can divide this data up a lot of ways (follow the link and you’ll find 57 percent support combined for admitting more highly skilled immigrants) but York’s right that a substantial minority favors mass deportation and a clear majority favors physically strengthening the border. On the other hand, none of the choices offered in that study gave people the option of choosing a stronger border and more lenient legalization policies for those already. The only option that mentioned a path to citizenship, for instance, also called for “greatly increasing” immigration of all kinds, skilled and unskilled. What would happen if the poll offered people an option on legalization that didn’t come with some preference on border security attached?
Actually, we know the answer to that courtesy of a Gallup poll released last week:
Overall, just 19 percent of the public favors mass deportation. Among Republicans, just 31 percent do compared to fully 50 percent that support a path to citizenship and 18 percent who support guest workers. It’s true that when you ask people whether they support increasing or decreasing immigration generally, more say the latter than the former — but the margin between those two groups has been shrinking since 9/11, when 58 percent supported less immigration versus just eight percent who favored more. Today it’s 34/25 with a plurality of 40 percent saying immigration should be kept at its present level. How are the 50 percent of GOPers who back a path to citizenship going to react to Trump moving to the right of Mitt Romney 2012 by calling not just for mass self-deportation of illegals but forcible deportation?
The obvious counterargument is that Republican voters have had their views of what’s achievable politically shaped by years of establishment rhetoric about bringing people “out of the shadows.” Mass deportation is outside the Overton window for most. Trump’s special appeal to his supporters is that he seems able to move the Overton window singlehandedly and unapologetically. How many Republicans who supported a path to citizenship last week because, they thought, it was the only workable solution will read Trump’s statement on deportation and conclude that if a can-do guy like him thinks it’s feasible then maybe we should give it a shot? Then again, how will those same Republicans react when they find out it’ll cost somewhere between $100-$200 billion to carry this plan out, not to mention the gigantic numbers in economic losses that’ll soon be touted by amnesty fans to capture the damage that would result from summarily removing all illegals? How will they react after Trump wins the nomination and Democrats take a wrecking ball to him with stories about families ripped apart and kids who thought they were citizens after being born here now confronting the thought of losing their citizenship? Even Ted Cruz supports legal status for some illegals, remember.
Exit question: Assume that, due to Democratic opposition in the Senate, Congress refuses to fund President Trump’s mass deportation plan, as would almost certainly happen. What should a can-do guy like him do?