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Poll of battleground states like NC: Dems can win on immigration if the message is right

Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not.  (WikiMedia Commons Image by Tomascastelazo.)

A new poll of key 2022 battleground states offers Democrats a road map to victory among coveted Latino voters when it comes to immigration issues — if they’re willing to follow it.

The bottom line? When they talk about immigration, try sounding less Republican.

But to do that, Democrats are going to have to get past a couple of major messaging hurdles, the poll, commissioned by the advocacy group Immigration Hub, found.

Just three in 10 respondents told pollsters they know “very well” where President Joe Biden stands on immigration border issues, with a 6-point decline (from 75 percent to 69 percent) who say they “know well” where the Democratic White House stands on such issues.

In the meantime, more than two-thirds of voters (68 percent) in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin told pollsters they’re hearing negative messages about how Biden is handling immigration matters. Of that cohort, 42 percent said they were hearing “mostly negative” messages about Biden, while 26 percent said they were hearing a mix of positive and negative messages, according to the poll.

Just 17 percent told pollsters that they’re hearing “mostly positive” things about Biden’s job performance on immigration matters.

The Democratic White House has faced steady criticism over its handling of immigration matters, with some analysts saying his swift reversals on Trump-era policies (despite his promises to slow walk such changes) prompted a crisis at the nation’s southern border. Republicans have seized on it as one example of the White House’s policy failures.

Last Thursday, the White House had to issue a hasty clarification after Biden apparently conflated Title 42, a pandemic-related expulsion policy that’s effectively paralyzed the nation’s asylum system and a mask mandate for public transportation that was struck down this week by a federal judge, Reuters and other news outlets reported.

Thursday’s Immigration Hub poll stresses the need for coordinated communication as both the White House and Democrats look to hold their majorities on Capitol Hill.

“The key to winning the immigration debate for Democrats is not silence – it’s talking to voters about the progress they’ve made for immigrant communities and at the border after the previous administration wrecked our immigration system,” Beatriz Lopez, Immigration Hub’s chief political and communications officer, said in a statement.

Biden and Democrats “have a prime opportunity right now to show how their policy prescriptions are meeting the moment and voters’ vision for a better immigration system,” Lopez continued.

“Importantly, they must continue to deliver on key commitments such as protections for our nation’s undocumented immigrants which is good policy and good politics,” Lopez concluded/ This is the moment for Democrats to get out with their message and plans, not repeat divisive, counterintuitive Republican talking points.”

The poll maps out those policy prescriptions with:

  • 66 percent of voters giving a positive rating to “prioritizing keeping families together in all aspects of our approach to immigration,” including 60 percent of swing voters.
  • 66 percent of voters giving a positive rating to “creating a new, fair, and orderly process for those seeking asylum,” including 58 percent of swing voters.
  • 81 percent of voters giving a positive rating to “cracking down on illegal actions of cartels that cross our border and bring drugs like fentanyl into the United States,” including 74 percent of swing voters, and
  • 74 percent of voters giving a positive rating to “improving infrastructure at the border to modernize the way the border is managed,” including 70% of swing voters, pollsters found.

Matt Barreto, BSP Research President and Co-Founder who conducted the poll, also added, “While Latino voters are thinking about the economy, it is wrong to assume immigration issues are not important.”

“About one in every five Latino voters say immigration is the issue that will motivate their vote, and this group of voters could be the deciding factor in close elections,” Barreto continued. “Latino voters strongly support the steps taken by Democrats in Congress and blame Republicans for obstructing and blocking real progress on the immigration issue.”

The poll of 1,200 battleground state voters was conducted between March 3 and March 16, with a 500 voter oversample of of Latino voters in those states.

John L. Micek is the editor-in-chief of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, which first published this essay.

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