Immigration Compromise Is a Winning Strategy

Immigration Compromise Is a Winning Strategy

During last week’s government funding debate, Democrats reportedly offered funding for additional border security in exchange for protections for Dreamers, who are young immigrants brought here illegally as children. Democrats’ willingness to make such a trade offers President Trump a potential opportunity to follow through on his promise to protect Dreamers and increase border security. The president would be wise to capitalize on it: New polling of Republicans, conservatives, and of Trump’s base of support clearly demonstrates his deal will be a winner for all involved.  

We surveyed Republican and conservative-leaning Independent voters, as well as Trump Base Voters (defined as those who voted for Trump, approve of him today, voted Republican on the congressional ballot, and describe themselves as Republican). We found the president and congressional Republicans have much to gain, and remarkably little to lose, by passing legislation that bolsters border security and provides a fix for Dreamers. Our findings make a compelling case for congressional Republicans to support a compromise deal on immigration in the U.S. House and Senate — and for the president to lead the charge.   

More than six out of seven Trump Base Voters support a three-part plan that would: 1) extend a wall along the southern border; 2) enhance border security overall; and 3) offer citizenship to Dreamers who meet certain requirements (such as enrolling in school or enlisting in the military). 

Our findings also show that these voters would stick with the president if he supported such a deal. Fewer than 1 percent of Trump Base Voters would defect and support a Democrat in 2020, and just 3 percent would consider another Republican as a result. Among all conservative and Republican voters, just 6 percent would vote for a Democrat in 2020 in protest of this three-part plan. 

Similarly, in 2018 Congressional races, fewer than 1 percent of Trump’s base voters and just 1 percent of conservative and Republican voters would withdraw support from Republicans in the 2018 Congressional elections in protest of a deal. Finally, just 12 percent of conservative and Republican voters and 11 percent of Trump’s base voters would support a different Republican in a 2018 GOP primary if their representative supported this kind of deal.

That’s about as safe as you can get on a policy issue in this age of division and political discord. Meanwhile, many of the groups the president and Republicans will need to hold Congress in the 2018 midterm elections — including young voters, college-educated women, faith voters, and high-income suburban voters — all overwhelmingly support protecting Dreamers and the deal outlined above.

Not surprisingly, the president’s support for this three-part package is key to solidifying and expanding support among conservative and Republican voters. Sixty percent overall and 73 percent of Trump’s base voters say they are more likely to support this legislative deal if the president endorses it. 

Even the president’s strongest supporters, who are overwhelmingly in favor of hardline immigration policies, don’t want such action at the expense of the Dreamers. They want a fix for these young Americans, too. In fact, three quarters of white, working-class men — the group Republicans fear might defect over immigration — actually support a compromise.

Since he announced his candidacy, the president has succeeded both in tapping into what his base already thinks and in leading them where he wants them to go. When it comes to a deal on Dreamers and the border, our research concludes that, if the president leads with conviction, his base will follow him almost universally. Add in support from the key demographic groups the GOP needs to recruit in future elections — from young conservatives and college-educated women, to faith voters and high-income suburbanites — and there is more than enough motivation here for Republicans to strike a deal. 

Seeing the opportunity, some of Trump’s biggest backers are urging him to make the Dreamers deal with Democrats. As Politico reported last week, three organizations supported by some of the conservative movement’s strongest backers have told Trump that the Dreamers deal is too good to pass up.

After years of gridlock, there is a real solution within reach, a solution that everyone — the base, conservatives, and independents alike — supports. It’s a deal that brings to life the old saying “good policy is good politics.” 

Michael Meyers is president and partner at TargetPoint Consulting, helping guide his company and its political, corporate, and association clients toward innovative and actionable uses of their research.

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