Morning Consult, on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Center, conducted an online survey among a national sample of voters that sought to understand where immigration falls among other issues entering 2020 elections, the level of priority voters place on addressing immigration, and if there is middle ground among Republicans and Democrats on immigration policies.
The survey found that immigration is important for many voters as they assess presidential candidates and establish priorities for Congress, with Republicans placing higher emphasis on the issue than Democrats. Voters from both parties want Congress to compromise on immigration, especially on border security funding and providing permanent legal status to immigrants who came to the United States as children but are not legally residing in the United States.
The survey found that immigration policy shapes the presidential voting preferences of many voters. Among Democrats, 56% said healthcare policy primarily shapes their vote preference when assessing a presidential candidate while 54% of Republicans said immigration policy drove their candidate preferences in 2020. More than 4 in 5 registered voters said a candidate’s immigration plan is important in their decision about who to vote for in the presidential election. Political affiliation shapes this intensity, with 63% of Republicans saying a candidate’s immigration plan is very important compared to 40% of Democrats.
The survey also found that voters want Congress to address immigration. Among all voters, 83% said immigration should be an important priority for Congress to address, including 37% of registered voters saying immigration should be a top priority for legislators. Political affiliation also shaped this intensity, with half of Republicans responding that addressing immigration should be a top priority for Congress, compared to 29% of their Democratic counterparts.
Overall, there is an appetite for compromise around immigration. Registered voters want their member of Congress to work collaboratively across party lines to get something done on immigration policy. This desire for compromise was bipartisan, with 80% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans expressing support for this approach.
The survey also found that Republicans and Democrats were willing to compromise on certain immigration policies important to their parties:
- Increasing spending on border security seems to be the middle ground, with Republicans citing this policy as a top priority and the area where Democrats are most willing to compromise.
- There is also a willingness to compromise among Republicans on a policy important to Democrats: providing permanent legal status and ability to apply for citizenship to individuals who came to the United States as children and are not legally residing in the United States.
However, the border wall, which is a major policy priority for Republicans, is not an area of compromise for both parties.
Among the tested immigration policies, a bipartisan majority of registered voters support providing permanent legal status and ability to apply for citizenship to individuals who came to the United States as children and are not legally residing in the United States, with 81% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans supporting this option. A similar majority also supports providing a way to gain legal status to all people in the country without lawful status but who have not committed crimes, however there is lower support among Republicans with 81% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans in support.
BPC believes that these results show the need for compromise on this issue even if the direction for legislation is unclear.
“It’s clear that immigration is going to be an important issue in this election, and more so that voters would like to see those they elect work together to pass legislation. What’s less clear is what form that legislation may take, given differences of opinion,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, BPC’s director of immigration and cross-border policy. “However, that is the job of elected officials—to make some of those hard choices and get something done. Finding common ground even among differences is what our democracy was founded on.”
The survey had a national sample of 1,994 registered voters. The data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.