Two years go one of my favorite political analysts predicted that immigration policy was going to be the big sleeper issue of the 2016 election. I thought this was overstated. But, I also believed the elite news media was missing the importance of immigration in our politics. In the last 20 years a substantial chunk of the electorate has developed a thick crust of anti-immigrant hostility, especially but not exclusively on the Right. It is a minority within the GOP, but a much-feared and influential one. At the same time, the Media also was failing to understand that public opinion towards immigration was complex and divided by class and other socioeconomic characteristics, too.
Well, thanks to Donald Trump, immigration is back on the front burner. Since I haven’t the slightest doubt that the Media will fail to do its job again, I’m glad this topic came up for Civilized Conversation now, before elite Media memes have hardened into stone. We can do better. We could hardly do worse.
I’m very short of time this week. But, I will try to do enough research to open our discussion by describing the basic topography of public opinion on (legal and illegal) immigration. Then, we can debate the incentives politicians in both parties face on this issue. My hope is the understanding we gain will help us understand what happens the next year and a half.
Discussion Questions (detailed) –
- WHAT does the U.S. public really think about immigration issues and how important is this issue to them? How do opinions vary by
- Partisanship and ideology?
- Socioeconomic status, religiosity, geography, and other factors?
- WHY do people hold these opinions? Rational interest? Support for rule of law? Economic scapegoating? Racism/xenophobia? How can we tell which motive rules?
- HOW has public opinion influenced political leaders’ strategic calculations?
- In general.
- On specific issues, like on comprehensive reform, border security, path to citizenship? How about on Obamacare and criminal justice reform?
- Do the most anti-immigrant base votes rule the roost? How much room for maneuver do GOP leaders have?
- What role has conservative talk radio/news media played?
- Will immigration politics determine the GOP presidential nominee? How anti-immigrant will the GOP congress be
- Trump: How many GOP voters really support his wall + deport all POV? Is he saying anything not said every day in conservative news media? Will he harden the party’s stance on immigration or is this xenophobia’s last hurrah?
- Obama: How supportive are they of Obama’s immigration policies? Who dissents?
- Clinton: What’s in Hillary’s new immigration plan?
- Motives: Is this all about winning Latino votes, or is it principled?
- Will Dem policies drive away White working class voters? Is it worth it?
- FUTURE: How might politics of immigration change in the next 2 yrs? In 10?
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
- Substance: Our 2013 mtg on what policies would “work” on immigration reform. .
- Public opinion:
- Obama’s policies: Their big political upside for Dems.
- Presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton’s plan and Jeb Bush’s plan. Read with the politics in mind.
- Future challenges:
- Trump: He’s the monster the GOP created. Word.
Next Week: Anti-Science Views of the Political Right and Left.