Surprise: Plurality of Republicans support Trump making a deal on DREAMers
“New poll reveals Trump supporters are surprisingly onboard with Trump’s immigration deal with Democrats,” reads The Week’s headline for its story on this poll. “Surprisingly”? Either they meant that ironically, like I did in my own headline, or they’ve never met a Trump supporter.
Despite the topline numbers showing his own party behind him, though, this is not a great poll for POTUS. In fact, despite the splashy takeaway, the result is arguably meaningless. YouGov asked:
Do you approve or disapprove of President Trump working on a deal with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to pass a law that would grant permanent legal status to ‘Dreamers’, otherwise law-abiding children and young adults who were brought into the United States at a very young age by parents who are illegal immigrants?
Without identifying Democratic concessions in the question, that tells you next to nothing about what sort of deal Republicans would tolerate. Even some hardcore border hawks would trade a DREAM amnesty for the wall or passage of the RAISE Act. All this data reveals, really, is how many people on each side wouldn’t rule out a hypothetical deal just because amnesty is part of the package.
But like I say, the numbers aren’t great for Trump:
Right, a plurality of Republicans are in favor, 47/32, but Trump’s usually in supermajority territory when it comes to support from the GOP. Compare the tepid Republican numbers, in fact, to the strong support among Democrats, 73/12. The results are even more lopsided when you break them down by who people voted for in 2016. Hillary voters favor a Trump/Democrats compromise on DREAM, 80/10. Trump voters favor it … 45/39. That’s a dangerous place for POTUS to be when all that’s being asked of respondents is whether they’ll tolerate a deal that includes amnesty. Imagine how Trump voters would shift if the question specified that the wall is off the table as part of the package, as both Pelosi and Trump have agreed?
There’s a small but noteworthy Republican/Trumpist divide on DACA too. YouGov asked Americans if they favor or oppose the program. Republicans were surprisingly evenly split — and this time I’m not using the word ironically:
The Democratic split is what you’d expect but among Republicans it’s 39/43, net opposition of just four points. Ask Trump voters how they feel about DACA, though, and the gap widens to 34/55, net disapproval of -21. When you shift the question to ask how people feel about Trump ending the program, the same divide reappears. Republicans support his decision 66/21 but Trump voters support it at 73/16.
Point being, although the party writ large may stick with him on a DREAM deal, the support almost certainly won’t be overwhelming and he really does run a risk of alienating some of his core supporters. It’s Democrats and centrists who are most likely to celebrate a compromise and they’re unlikely to stay pro-Trump for long. We’ll see how much effort Trump spends on selling it, though. He should do something bold and announce the RAISE Act as a non-negotiable demand in exchange for DREAM amnesty; Democrats will walk but that’ll reassure his fans, at least, that he’s still prioritizing core border-hawk demands. His problem is that he’s already telegraphed his reluctance to deport DACA enrollees so loudly that if Democrats do walk he’ll probably end up caving and refusing to end the program in six months, as he threatened to do. Even if he doesn’t cave and starts ordering deportations, the media will be ruthless in punishing him for it. He’s not holding a great hand here and both sides know it, which is how the wall ended up off the table in the first place.