August 25, 2016

5 facts about Trump supporters’ views of immigration

(Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
(Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)

Immigration policy has been a focal point of Donald Trump’s campaign since he announced he was running for president 14 months ago. Today, amid signs he may be preparing to modify some of his hard-line positions on illegal immigration, here is a review of where Trump supporters stand on the issue:

1Most Trump supporters view immigration as a “very big problem” in the U.S. In a survey released last week, 66% of registered voters who support Trump in the general election call immigration a “very big problem” in the country. Just 17% of Hillary Clinton backers say the same. Terrorism is the only other issue, among seven included, that is viewed by about as many Trump supporters as a major problem (65%).

2Trump’s proposed border wall gets overwhelming support from his backers. Perhaps no Trump proposal has resonated more strongly with his supporters than his plan to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. Fully 79% of Trump supporters favor building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border; just 18% are opposed. Among Clinton supporters, 88% oppose a border wall, compared with 10% who favor it. 

3Trump supporters have mixed views of undocumented immigrants. Just 35% of Trump supporters say undocumented immigrants take jobs U.S. citizens would like to have, and a third say that they are less hard-working and honest than citizens. However, a greater share of Trump supporters (50%) think undocumented immigrants in the U.S. “are more likely than American citizens to commit serious crimes”; 43% say they are not. And among voters who support Trump strongly, 59% associate unauthorized immigrants with serious criminal behavior. Fewer (42%) of those who support him less strongly say the same.

Pro-Clinton voters are far less likely than Trump supporters to express negative views of unauthorized immigrants, and there are only slight differences based on strength of support.

4During the Republican primaries, most Trump supporters did not favor a national effort to deport all those in the U.S. illegally. In March, Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters who backed Trump for the GOP nomination were split over whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country legally: 52% were opposed to unauthorized immigrants staying in the U.S. legally, while 47% said they should be allowed to stay if they met certain requirements.

At the same time, Trump supporters were less supportive of a path to legal status than were GOP voters who supported other candidates – and far less supportive than Democrats who supported either Clinton or Bernie Sanders for their party’s nomination.

Most Trump supporters who opposed a path to legal status for those in the U.S. illegally supported a national law enforcement effort to deport all unauthorized immigrants. But that constituted fewer than half (42%) of GOP voters who supported Trump for the nomination.

5Today, voters who back a Trump presidency are divided on priorities for U.S. immigration policy. Nearly half (48%) of Trump supporters say the priority for policy to deal with illegal immigration should be stronger law enforcement and better border security. Just 10% say the priority should be creating a way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens if they meet certain requirements. But about four-in-ten (41%) say both of these approaches should be given equal priority.

When Trump voters who give equal priority to both are asked to choose just one, a majority overall comes down on the side of stronger law enforcement and better border security: 78% say this should be the priority, compared with just 19% who prioritize a path to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally. Among Clinton supporters, opinions are nearly reversed: 80% say a path to citizenship should be the priority, while 19% prioritize tougher law enforcement and better border security.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Immigration Attitudes, Latin America, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Issue Priorities, U.S. Political Figures, Unauthorized Immigration

  1. Photo of Carroll Doherty

    is director of political research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Layla Tough Love Stepford2 months ago

    This is because many of the people who support Trump live in border towns, sanctuary cities or other locations that are influenced by heavy illegal immigration; or have lost people close to them from the actions of illegal immigrants. Many legal immigrants support Trump who suffer the effects of illegal immigration the most. This is contrasted to many “Berkeley liberal” types who support Hillary and only really know legal immigrants, if they know any at all. It’s the different experiences with illegal immigrants (or lack thereof) that influences these voters to choose Trump or Hillary; It’s not the candidates who are influencing the voters’ opinions.

  2. David Clow2 months ago

    It’s too easy for observers and researchers such as Pew to get lost in the details, and to mistake a snapshot taken of opinions on any given day for the big picture. Trump voters have just one position on anything: they demand the right to declare any view on anything at any time as the absolute non-negotiable truth. In other words, they demand that their visceral certainty be equal to any finding based on reason or evidence. They demand to nullify any reason or evidence that doesn’t comport with their outcomes.

    How this is expressed in their changing, shifting opinions is secondary. They will not concede to any charge of hypocrisy because in their view they have not changed their minds just because they have changed their positions or tactics. Their fundamental positions never changes: they think with their blood.

    This is nothing less than epistemological secession from the United States, which was, after all, founded on the idea that there are self-evident truths in the first place to which people must accede, which are everyone’s entitlement, and which manifest as the guarantors of life, liberty, and so on in a free society. The position of Trumpism is the same one that the Confederacy took in 1861: that there are no truths so self-evident that political power here and now cannot reverse or undo; that truth is determined by the power of people to make it, facts notwithstanding; and that such power is for those who can get and keep it. Reality itself, even scientific fact, is effectively a political construct, and those in power have thr right to endorse or nullify any evidence, any finding, any question or answer as they see fit, not on its merits. Proof is solely judged on its political utility.

    Noting that Trump voters hold no consistent positions, or that they change their minds freely, or that they disagree among themselves, is seeing trees and not the forest. Sincerely held belief is their sole arbiter, not the details. Hypocrisy in their worldview is both required and impossible: they are required to change their tactical positions on anything because their war of thought must be absolute. This makes them both mutually committed and mutually disloyal, and therefore dangerous both inside and outside their movement. They are at war. Their first causalities will be the ones closest to them, as they ways in which they exhibit their pathological subjectivity contend. They’re all entitled to their own reality, so the tests will force them apart.

    1. Layla Tough Love Stepford2 months ago

      Well this is a totally biased and unfounded argument based on no logic or evidence. Comparing Trump’s position to the Confederacy is a disgrace to one’s integrity. While there are complaints and/or concerns to be made about Trump, having a bigoted outlook towards him and his supporters only shows that one is self-projecting rather than seeing the reality of Trump’s positions. Hypocrisy is to accuse Trump and his supporters of being bigots or complaining about his tone and language while immediately resorting to the same form of communication to attack him and his supporters. That is the very definition of hypocrisy.

      A real reason should be found to complain about Trump rather than imitating those qualities one is complaining about in him; especially when one is pretending to be on a moral high ground above him. Attacking Trump’s supporters with bigoted and stereotypical comments is actually more Nazi-like than anything Trump has done. It was the Nazi party that used the same discrediting and obnoxious tactics that the “Never Trumpers” use today.

  3. Packard Day2 months ago

    If you are a low educated and low skilled American worker whose current job is now under pressure due to undocumented labor/foreign competition/automation, then you might see some immediate advantages of gaining control over this country’s illegal immigration influx.

    The same might also be said for some forward thinking, high educated and high skilled American workers who might be replaced one day due to either internal or external foreign competition and/or automation (e.g. TurboTax vis a vis professional tax accountant industry).

    Unfortunately, both groups are now under pressure. The increased application of ever more complex automation, advanced robotics, and artificial intelligence are rapidly making the American worker and his product far less valuable than it once was. Foreign competition, illegal or otherwise, is only exasperating this growing problem. Sorry folks, but welcome to Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopic “Player Piano” world (1953).

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      You write ‘exasperate’ when you mean ‘exacerbate.’


  4. Anonymous2 months ago

    If they’re criminals, deport them, if they’re like most illegal immigrants who came here to seek out a better life, help them attain legal citizenship and become tax paying Americans like the rest of us. Focus efforts on identifying and capturing drug and human smugglers and violent criminals to get them out of the U.S. and KEEP them out! Call me a bleeding heart but most Americans cannot fathom the depravity and hopelessness that many of these families are so desperate to escape. If we can offer them a legal path and impose a tax penalty for x years on them in order to help pay for their citizenship not only are they paying for the cost but now are legal citizens who can demand fair wages which alleviates the issues of cheap labor because now they have the legal right to do so. There is no simple answers or overnight solution but we need a plan that works.

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      Well said. Thank you.

      1. Anonymous2 months ago

        Illegal immigrants are criminals by virtue of being “illegal” immigrants. They have broken the law. Enforce the law by deporting the “illegals”.

    2. Anonymous2 months ago

      how can you expect a family who suffers from “depravity and hopelessness” to pay a tax penalty for x years? Not practical.

  5. Anonymous2 months ago

    The idea of a wall dividing the US and Mexico is racist. Illegal immigrants are from all over, not just Hispanics.

  6. Anonymous2 months ago

    Wow don’t they know the wall won’t stop illegals? Over 50% of them come here legally, but they over stay their visas.

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      You can’t have one without the other. No one has suggested that a wall, alone, is sufficient. For example, careful vetting of LEGAL immigrants is also required.

  7. Anonymous2 months ago

    #4 is surprising that his supporters get that you can’t just deport that many people without a huge dip into the budget to say the least. It’s kind of like Democrats with guns. We may not like them, but we have to accept that they are here to stay.

  8. Anonymous2 months ago

    I’m a #Trump supporter.
    My views:
    – no “round-up” of illegals. Yes “illegals” not this “undocumented” PC garbage.
    — instead, using an E-Verify with HUGE penalties to the employers would make some look back towards Mexico as an alternative.
    – Any illegals apprehended and found guilty of a serious crime, deported immediately and if found to return, prosecute and give them to the Sheriff in Arizona, Joe.
    – build wall and use current laws and (at least) the current resources to rigorously enforce our border.
    – NO aid, welfare, education grants, ANYTHING, to illegals.

    Basically, keep them out but more importantly make it unattractive to come in the first place.

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      Trump isn’t proposing huge penalties to employers. Republicans never do, no matter how much they shriek and scream about illegal immigrants. They’ve had a stranglehold over many states and ample opportunity to do so in congress but have failed to implement such a policy. They haven’t implemented such a policy because they don’t want to. They WANT illegal immigration because the businesses they get their campaign funds from WANT illegal immigrants to work in their businesses. Otherwise they would have done something, and they would have implemented hefty penalties for anyone employing illegals. Why haven’t Trump supporters figured that out yet?

      Republicans have done less than any other congress in the history of the USA. Which party is Trump running with?

      Welfare doesn’t go to illegals, it goes to minor American citizens who have a right to be in the country. But minors can’t be given money. Do you plan to stop giving programs for American citizens, or just those who’s parents are illegals? You say you’re not in favor of deporting illegals in mass. Are you in favor of removing the minors from the families of illegals? Simple solutions or slogans rarely accommodate a complex and messy reality.

      A wall is going to cost about 25 billion dollars. It will cost almost as much to staff over 10 years. Contrary to what Trump will have you believe, Mexico won’t pay for it. Neither will Canada. Nor does it address issues like tunnels or boats that are currently used to bypass current walls in place on the border. Many experts believe even if such a wall can be built, it won’t be effective. A wall would be a terrific boondoggle.

      Illegals who are arrested for crimes are subject to US law and the US justice system and are removed after going through the appropriate system. Yes, occasional people slip through the cracks, but the vast majority of illegals who are caught breaking serious laws are sent packing, some after spending time in jail, which is a much better method of ensuring they don’t wind up on American streets than just sending them out of the country. It takes a lot of resources to implement a zero tolerance policy and send all who break even the most minor crime back. If you don’t want to use more resources (tax dollars) then you won’t get to send all who break even minor laws back. Zero tolerance enforcement tend to create unwanted and unintended consequences, often turning public opinion against policies.

      Obama has repeatedly asked for more funds to send more illegals back, Republicans have denied his request or significantly cut his budget over and over. Still, Obama has sent back more illegal aliens than any other president ever in US history. Republicans are more interested in power than in good government or implementing good policies. They would rather see Obama fail than Americans do well. That is why before Obama was even sworn into office Republicans got together and stated they would block everything Obama tries to do. Regardless of it’s effect on the American people. Even if it hurts Americans, they would block what Obama does. And they carried out that plan, even to the point of voting against their own bill after Obama said he liked it.

      Everyone on US soil is subject to US law and US constitutional rights as defined by congress and interpreted by the courts. Trump won’t get to just deny rights to groups of people. It is why many of his plans won’t work. The position of US President is just one part of the structure of the US government. It works with several others in concert with some cooperation. Trump doesn’t appear to be able to play with others, even those on his side, much like Republican’s in congress. His ability to get things done outside of his absolute authority of CEO of his own business is very doubtful.

      1. Anonymous2 months ago

        A wall is going to cost about 25 billion dollars. It will cost almost as much to staff over 10 years.
        I wonder how much we spend on benefits to illegals, how much we pay for unemployment insurance to Americans whose jobs are lost to lower wage illegals, and how much on average every illegal costs us. I’m betting it is more than the wall will cost. We talk about illegals as if terrorists are in a separate category. They are not necessarily. Some will enter illegally. What does it cost to monitor them 24/7 once we discover those likely to commit terror? What does it cost to find them, incarcerate them, try them, etc. The cost of the wall should not be spoken of in a vacuum.

        1. Anonymous2 months ago

          You don’t have to “wonder how much we spend on benefits to illegals.” You also don’t have to “bet” anything. All you have to do is look stuff up. Like on the internet. Because lots of smart people have dedicated lots of time to answering these questions that you’re “wondering” about. Maybe you won’t like the answers you find?

    2. Joop deBruin2 months ago

      I’m hilariously laughing at your response.

      Mitt Romney had that plan and I loved it. Employer enforcement is the way to go.

      HOWEVER, DonnieDemocrat called it a “Mean spirited plan that would drive voters away from the Republican Party.” As it turns out, Trump doesn’t like employer enforcement because he knows it works and he will be in hot water due to the use of them in his various endeavors.


      1. Tracy Martin2 months ago

        Donnie Democrat? I think not.

    3. Anonymous2 months ago

      Double yes to this: NO aid, welfare, education grants, ANYTHING, to illegals.