CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES
- Many observers are puzzling over the voters’ choice of Donald Trump as the 2016 Republican nominee for president. Part of the puzzle can be resolved by understanding that Trump was close to the GOP grassroots on a number of important policy priorities, including immigration.
- Immigration policy choices have become increasingly partisan over time, as many other policies have. This is a long-term trend, not an overnight development.
- Opinion polls leading up to 2016 were increasingly clear about where GOP voters stood on a range of immigration policy matters, including legalization for undocumented immigrants and border control. Surveys from multiple sources point in the same direction.
- When Donald Trump announced in June 2015, it is not so surprising that his vocal stand on immigration immediately fueled his popularity.
- In hindsight, Trump’s rise is less surprising than the fact that other contenders for the nomination flatly ignored clear signposts in numerous public opinion polls.
- Though there are other explanations for Trump’s success in the primaries, it should not be shocking that candidates win when they position themselves proximate to voters on issues as important as immigration policy and economic recovery.
By now it is not news that Donald Trump’s fast rise among Republican primary voters rests in part on his stand on immigration control,1 and particularly his pungent criticism of the illegal immigration flow. His widely covered announcement speech in June 2015 in which he promised he would build a border wall if elected, and make Mexico pay for it, captured the support of voters as much for its audacity as for the substance of the proposal itself. With an opposition parceled out across more than a dozen rivals for the GOP nomination, adhering to issue positions popular among a sizable share of Republican voters fueled his momentum through the presidential primaries as competitors successively dropped out.