US survey indicates change in Republican immigration stance

01 April 2016
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in the US recently conducted a survey, which found that found younger Republicans are more likely to see immigrants as a benefit to the United States. PRRI is a non-profit organisation, which conducts research that incorporates religion, values and public life.
The results of the survey showed that only 22 per cent of American Republicans aged 65 and older felt that immigrants benefited American society, whereas 51 per cent of Republicans ages 18 to 29 felt the same. The survey shows that in general, the Republican Party shares a negative view of immigration. The survey involved 42,586 telephone interviews between April 2015 and January 2016.
The survey does show that conservative Republicans are very concerned with how immigrants affect traditional American values. In fact, 53 per cent of Republicans said that immigrants “constitute a threat to traditional American customs and values.” However, when moderate Republicans were asked about the same issue, only 45 per cent agreed with this statement. This figure fell to 41 per cent for liberal Republicans.
This generational divide in opinion is also present in relation to immigration reform itself, which gives an interesting perspective on the future of the Republican Party. The issue of immigration and ideas for reform has continued to be a topical and divisive issue during this election cycle. Donald Trump has centred his campaign on the issue of immigration, as a way to generate popularity and votes. Trump’s stance also appears to have won the endorsement of a range of high-powered people, including Senator Jeff Sessions and Representative Duncan Hunter, and subsequently forced his rivals to take hard-right positions on the issue as well. For example, Ted Cruz has noticeably toughened his position on immigration.
The survey did not focus on specific candidates; however, the data that has emerged does appear to coincide with the trends seen thus far in the presidential primary. This is evidenced by the fact that both Trump and Cruz have swept several states, far outpacing their rivals and in some cases, and causing them to exit the race completely. In reviewing the electorate in some of those states that have been won by Cruz and Trump, it is pertinent to note that age was a key factor. This can be seen in recent successes in Trump’s campaign, for example, voters who are over 65 helped Trump surface as the victor in seven of the eleven states. In fact, in Massachusetts, a state with a largely white electorate, Trump gained around 52 per cent of the vote from age groups 45 to 64 and those 65 and older.
However, the survey does appear to signal a potential change in direction for the Republican Party, especially as those younger voters who are more tolerant of immigration get older. A telling sign of this change is the fact that even among young white evangelical Protestants, 55 per cent felt that immigrants strengthen American society. Therefore, the survey findings could indicate that the strength of voter support from Trump and Cruz, which does appear significant at the moment, could all but disappear in the future.


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