A new poll shows that immigration is the fastest rising concern for Americans of all political ideologies as the country heads into the 2018 midterm elections.
The Gallup poll, taken July 1-11, found that 22 percent of those surveyed said that immigration tops their list of concerns, with just 19 percent who said “government” was their most important issue. That spike represents an eight-point surge since June.
The share of people who say immigration is the most important issue is higher now that at any time in the 17 years that Gallup has asked the question though the poll did not differentiate between legal and illegal immigration.
The sharp rise comes as the nation is embroiled in a debate over President Donald Trump’s tough stance on illegal immigration. The Trump administration says the tough approach is needed to deter migrants from crossing the border illegally, but open borders activists and the president’s political opponents believe the policies are too strict.
Rising concern over immigration is not a single-party issue, according to the survey. The issue topped the list for Republicans and Independents and rose sharply from a year ago among Democrats.
Even so, the share of Republicans citing immigration as the most pressing issue was about twice as large as the share of Democrats. 35 percent of Republicans said immigration was their top concern, while 18 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Independents said the same.
Opposing groups almost certainly have different reasons for viewing immigration as the country’s top problem. Republicans likely worry about illegal immigration’s impact on legal immigrants, the nation’s economy and crime, while Democrats may be concerned with how Trump’s policies negatively impact their desire for open borders.
The heightened awareness of illegal immigration could greatly benefit the GOP in the 2018 midterm elections. Candidates who identify with Trump’s immigration policies will likely enjoy strong support heading into the November elections.
“If the general immigration focus continues through the fall, GOP candidates may be able to fire up the enthusiasm of the part of their base highly concerned about immigration and that in turn favors the Republican approach to this issue,” Gallup Editor-in-chief Frank Newport said.
The visibility of the issue could also force red-state Democrats to vote in favor of border funding and enforcement measures to avoid a loss during the November elections.