In the late autumn of 2014, it seemed as though Barack Obama’s executive actions pertaining to the enforcement of immigration law would not only be a major issue in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries but they might be one of a handful of issues that dominated the general election, too.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from November found that only 38 percent of the public was happy with the president’s planned immigration actions. 48 percent of American adults disapproved of Barack Obama’s order to enact portions of a failed Senate bill that would have reformed the nation’s immigration system. Just 37 percent of self-identified independents and only 63 percent of Democrats said they supported Obama’s actions. Even more strikingly, just 43 percent of Hispanics polled expressed support for Obama’s actions on immigration.
That survey’s findings were supported in a Bloomberg poll released just weeks later. In that poll, the unpopularity of Obama’s immigration orders coincided with the president’s worst job approval rating in that survey’s history. “The White House also is facing a backlash from independents who oppose his unilateral moves on immigration, and just 24 percent say the country is on the right track, the lowest rating since September 2011” the poll’s write-up read.
Flash forward to today, and it appears as though the prediction that immigration would play a crucial role in deciding the results of the next presidential election appear premature.
A new Associated Press/GfK poll not only suggests that the president’s immigrations actions are popular among core must-win constituencies for both the Democrats and Republicans, but that partisans on both sides of the aisle on the verge of accepting them as irreversible.
That survey found that 53 percent of respondents back providing a pathway to citizenship, not just legal status, for illegal immigrants living in the United States. 59 percent favor allowing immigrants who are brought to the U.S. as children a way to remain in the country legally. Another 57 percent support allowing the illegal immigrant parents of children who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents a way to remain in the country. The president’s executive orders on immigration accomplish both of these popular objectives.
A plurality, 49 percent, say they would support a candidate for the presidency who supports the president’s immigration orders while 47 percent say they would back a candidate who promises to reverse them. But that 47 percent might be soft.
“Even among Republicans, many say they could see themselves voting for a candidate who wants to keep Obama’s action in place,” read an AP summary of this poll’s findings. “Three-quarters of Republicans say they would prefer to vote for a candidate who would undo it, but a combined 55 percent would either prefer to support a candidate who would keep it in place or could imagine themselves voting for such a candidate.”
Self-described conservatives, too, are resigned to the notion that the president’s executive actions aren’t going away. “Even among conservative Republicans, nearly half — 47 percent — could at least imagine voting for a candidate who would keep the action in place,” that report added.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Hispanic voters contend that they will only support a candidate who would keep the president’s immigration action in place. For Republicans who need to win Latino support in order to retake the White House, promising to reverse the president’s immigration actions is going to seem increasingly suicidal.
While a substantial majority in this poll disapproves of the president’s immigration orders, that opinion seems to apply in them in theory more than in practice. On the specifics, the president’s immigration orders seem popular enough with the right voters so that they are probably not going anywhere. It’s looking like a safe bet that Obama’s immigration actions will only be overturned when the Congress passes a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes these provisions as well as other measures like enhanced border security. For Republicans opposed to the president’s immigration actions, that’s looks like their best case scenario.