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When nearly 50 migrants arrived unexpectedly in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, last week, it rekindled the ever-smoldering debate around immigration in America. This was exactly what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he intended when his administration chartered the two flights to relocate the migrants, at least some of whom were asylum seekers. This move followed in the footsteps of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whose administration has been relocating migrants to liberal places like New York City and Washington, D.C., for months. And just as Americans were divided over these specific actions, they continue to be split on the issue of immigration more broadly — and often hold surprising and contradictory views.
A poll from The Economist/YouGov fielded in the days after the Martha’s Vineyard flights found that Americans were evenly split over whether or not they approved of Texas and Florida sending undocumented immigrants to northern cities without giving those cities notice: Forty-four percent “somewhat” or “strongly” approved, while 44 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” disapproved (12 percent were not sure). Democrats were more likely to disapprove of the relocation efforts, with 71 percent disapproving, while three-quarters of Republicans approved. A poll from Politico/Morning Consult found that 42 percent of registered voters said it was appropriate that “some Republican governors from states along the U.S.-Mexico border have been sending thousands of migrants to liberal states and cities in the U.S.,” with another 41 percent saying it was inappropriate. There wasn’t a strong consensus on either side of the political aisle, however. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats said it was inappropriate, and 66 percent of Republicans said it was appropriate, but a quarter of Democrats and 1 in 5 Republicans took the alternate view. And in a separate poll from YouGov, Americans were likewise divided when asked whether they approved or disapproved of Southern Republican governors sending undocumented migrants to Democratic-controlled cities without giving those cities notice. This division held even in different regions of the country. About 41 percent of Americans in each listed region (Northeast, Midwest, South and West) approved of these moves from GOP governors, and roughly 44 percent in each region disapproved.
Americans’ views on this specific news story reflect broader divides around immigration. When asked in an August Economist/YouGov poll whether immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship, or whether they should be required to leave the country, Americans were split 44 percent to 41 percent. They were similarly divided in other YouGov data from this week: Thirty-seven percent of Americans said undocumented immigrants were treated “fairly,” and 38 percent said “unfairly.” And in an April survey from Republican pollster Echelon Insights, likely voters were evenly split on a number of immigration-related questions. Thirty percent said immigration should stay at its current level, while 45 percent said it should be decreased and 15 percent said it should be increased. Meanwhile, 39 percent strongly supported building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, while 32 percent strongly opposed it.
Where Americans find consensus on immigration is in the belief that illegal immigration is a problem in the first place. In that August Economist/YouGov poll, 59 percent of Americans said the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is a crisis. While Republicans were very likely to say so (81 percent did), a plurality of Democrats (45 percent) agreed the situation is a crisis. A majority of Americans also said it was “completely” or “somewhat” true that the U.S. is experiencing an “invasion” at its southern border, according to an NPR/Ipsos poll conducted in July. At the same time, in an August Pew Research Center survey, a sizable majority of Americans (72 percent) said taking in refugees should be a “very” or “somewhat” important goal for U.S. immigration policy, and this is true for both Democrats (85 percent) and Republicans (58 percent).
Concerns about immigration are clearly shared among Americans of all political persuasions, and the recent relocation of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard has helped bring it back into focus. While the percentage has gone down over time, a majority of Americans “mostly” or “completely” agreed with the statement that “the current increase of migrants attempting to enter the United States on the southern border due to the fact that Joe Biden was elected president,” according to a June Fox News/Beacon Research/Shaw & Company Research poll. And in an NBC News/Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies survey conducted earlier this month, a majority of registered voters (56 percent) said the Republican Party better handles border security, and a plurality (46 percent) preferred the GOP on immigration. It’s possible Republicans like DeSantis are doing everything they can to put the issue front and center just weeks away from the midterm elections in an attempt to change the channel from issues less favorable to Republicans, like abortion.
Other polling bites
- A recent Insider/Morning Consult poll found that almost half of Americans (41 percent) thought the age of our political leaders, such as the president and those in Congress and on the Supreme Court, is a major problem, and another 37 percent considered it a minor one — a breakdown that remained fairly consistent across political leanings. Seventy-five percent of Americans were in favor of introducing age maximums for members of Congress, too. Additionally, a majority agreed that a president should “definitely” undergo a physical and mental assessment to take office, with Americans ages 55 to 64 (71 percent) most likely to say so.
- Older Americans were more likely than younger Americans to say that formerly incarcerated people who have served their prison sentence deserve to be considered for jobs, according to a Sept. 16 YouGov survey. Eighty-two percent of adults ages 65 and older agreed, compared with 67 percent of those ages 18 to 29. Additional data from YouGov also found that nearly all Americans over 65 (93 percent) said that it’s at least somewhat harder for formerly incarcerated individuals to find employment, while about three-quarters of adults ages 18 to 29.
- Americans were down on both capitalism and socialism, per a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in August. Slightly more than half (57 percent) of Americans have a “very” or “somewhat” positive stance toward capitalism, which is down from 65 percent in May 2019. On the flip side, 36 percent of Americans today held a positive view of socialism, which is lower than the 42 percent who approved three years ago. Still, a higher share of adults (65 percent) agreed socialism at least somewhat helps people meet basic housing, health and food needs, compared with those who said the same about capitalism (47 percent). Meanwhile, 64 percent also said that capitalism could provide people with equal opportunities to be successful, while only 52 percent said the same about socialism.
- A YouGov poll conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 5 found that half of Americans enjoy true crime content, a breakdown that constitutes a notably higher share of women (58 percent) than men (42 percent). The study also showed a gender breakdown in the who is engaging with more violent topics within the genre: Sixty percent of women reported ever consuming murder-related true crime, while only 43 percent of men said the same. One set of responses, in particular, to another question in the survey might help elucidate that breakdown: Seventy percent of women agreed that the genre helps listeners become “more vigilant and safety-conscious” in their own lives.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.5 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 53.0 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -10.5 points). At this time last week, 42.3 percent approved and 53.1 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -10.8 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 40.9 percent and a disapproval rating of 54.3 percent, for a net approval rating of -13.4 points.
In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead Republicans by 1.9 points (45.2 percent to 43.3 percent). A week ago, Democrats led by 1.4 points (44.8 percent to 43.4 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 0.4 points (43.9 percent to 43.5 percent).