Trump's attitude to illegal immigrants resonates strongly with Republicans, but not with Hispanics

Republican businessman Donald Trump and his statements opposing immigration have the support of Republicans – in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll Trump is viewed as the GOP candidate Republicans trust most to handle immigration – and by an extremely wide margin.  Trump’s margin on this issue has only increased since the summer.

Half of Republicans view Trump as the candidate who can best handle immigration, more than four times the percentage who name Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the son of immigrants, who is in second place, far behind Trump.   Only 5% believe former Florida Governor Jeb Bush would do the best job on immigration.

Perhaps that should not be a surprise.  As they did last summer, Republicans overwhelmingly agree with the statement Trump made then: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.  They’re sending people that have lots of problems.  They’re bringing drugs.  They’re brings crime.  They’re rapists.”  In the poll question, Trump’s name was not associated with the statement.  Republicans overwhelmingly disagree with Bush’s statement that was made about the same time: “Yes, illegal immigrants broke the law, but it’s not a felony.  It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family…”

Americans overall disagree with both statements. 

Republicans are far more likely than the rest of the public to view illegal immigration as a very serious problem for the country (70% of Republicans say it is, compared with 46% overall).   And many also believe illegal immigrants are more likely than others to commit violent crimes (49% of Republicans versus 29% overall).  57% of Republicans believe immigration from Mexico has a negative impact on the U.S. economy; 37% of all adults do.

While Trump expresses the opinions of many Republicans, his positions on immigration – and those of many other Republicans -- may do relatively little to help Republicans gain support among Hispanics, a group that many believe they need to attract in order to win back the presidency.  More than half of Hispanics in this poll are immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants.  More than half (52%) know someone who is an illegal immigrant, which may color their views on immigration: Hispanics are as likely to think that illegal immigrants commit fewer violent crimes as to say they commit more than others do.  Half of Hispanics believe that Mexican immigrants have had a positive impact on the U.S. economy.

So, perhaps not surprisingly, most Hispanics disagree with Trump and agree with Jeb Bush’s thoughts on immigration. 

Republicans have a long way to go to capture Hispanics, especially on this issue.  Hispanics are almost three times as likely to trust the Democratic Party as to trust the GOP when it comes to handling immigration.  

See the Economist/YouGov results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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