Democrats' immigration policy probably not a winning issue

Ross Baker:
There are two cautions used by public opinion specialists to explain how poll numbers in political campaigns can be deceptive; how, for example, an enormous lead held by a candidate even late in the race can evaporate when Election Day dawns. Their first caution is that the poll results are reliable only as of the time the survey is actually taking place. They use the phrase “snapshot in time” to warn us not to put too much stake in early polls. The second caution is the phrase “intensity trumps preference”. Stated simply it means that voters who are true believers are more likely to show up at the polls than those who whose views are less-passionately held.

Democrats right now are hopeful that on Election Day voters will go to the polls with images of the disturbing scenes on the Mexican border still vivid in their minds and they will overwhelm the president’s loyal base even in some Republican strongholds. Those hopes need to be subjected to a reality check because indignation in June doesn’t necessarily produce votes in November.

At present, the signs are auspicious for the Democrats. They are heartened by the fact that even some prominent Republicans have expressed dismay at the treatment of the migrants at the border. The “zero tolerance” approach to border security seems to have few supporters in the media outside of Fox News. But let’s not forget that candidate Trump’s vow to get tough on illegal immigration was a major factor in motivating people in 2016 and getting him elected. That motivation has not evaporated.

According to a 2016 poll by the non-partisan Pew Research Center 70 percent of registered voters cited immigration as “very important” to their vote in 2016. The issue that most people would imagine to be the one most likely to generate passion — abortion — was deemed “very important” by only 45 percent of those polled. Among Trump supporters, according to the Pew survey, immigration was deemed “very important” by 79 percent of respondents; preceded in importance only by the economy and terrorism. The concern of those in Trump’s base that our borders are porous and need to be ruthlessly sealed are long-established and not easily dislodged. It is a defining issue for them and, according to a recent CNN Poll, 58% of Republicans support the President’s “zero tolerance” policy.
Viewed from heaven, the Democrats’ embrace of the plight of non-citizens might be seen as praiseworthy. And, given their reliance on Latino voters, it also seems to make good political sense. But there is the danger for Democrats that if the present crisis on the border abates, today’s zeal will diminish by November while the more deeply-rooted hostility to “open borders” or “amnesty” or other hard-line views on immigration will persist and limit the goal of hopeful Democrats to breach the red wall, capture the House and threaten the GOP majority in the Senate.
The Democrats have tried to weaponize empathy for people breaking the law and using children as human shields against the legal process.  They have used misleading photos and misleading arguments and appeal to people's emotions instead of their intellect.  There is enough time for the truth to rebut these misleading appeals to emotion.

It should also be noted that the Democrats and the media created this hysteria to counter the testimony about the FBI mishandling of the Clinton email investigation and their attempt to push the Russian conspiracy theory to thwart the Trump presidency.  The liberals in the media and in Congress are frustrated by the ineffectiveness of these charges.


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