During the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans might find that their stances on immigration are less viable than they were just a few years ago.
At least, that's what a new Gallup poll suggests. The poll, published this morning, shows that more Americans want immigration to either increase or stay the same, while those who want it to decrease are rapidly dwindling in number. Especially interesting is that in a mere 10 years the percentage supporting increased immigration went from 13% to 23%. Faced with these findings, two questions come to mind. First, what might account for this growing acceptance of immigration? And second, should the Republican Party take note?
The answer to the first question is simply that 10 years ago, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, there was an understandable (if unfortunate) increase in suspicion toward foreigners. This suspicion translated into decreased support for immigration. Later on, in 2008, the financial crisis helped keep attitudes toward immigration relatively cold as Americans feared increased competition for already-scarce jobs. Interestingly, despite all that, the percentage of whites supporting increased immigration now almost matches that of nonwhites:
The second question is even easier to answer than the first: Yes, Republicans should take note, for if they don't change their attitudes toward immigration — and if this trend in increased pro-immigration sentiment holds, which seems likely — they risk alienating not only the growing immigrant population, but also the increasing number of people who support immigration.
Of course, a Republican reversal on immigration would be hard to accomplish, especially because "at 46%, Republicans lean more heavily than the other parties toward favoring a decrease in immigration, and are alone in showing plurality support for this view." This suggests that a Republican attitude-change toward immigration will have to come from the top, not the bottom, of the party. Yet however painful it may be for some Republicans, a change in attitudes toward immigration is nonetheless necessary. Mitch McConnell and co. have a hard but necessary job ahead of them.
As Gallup concludes: "Support for increasing immigration remains the minority view, but one that has steadily gained support, not only from Democrats and nonwhites, but among whites and across the political spectrum."
Politicians would do well to take note.