January 21, 2016 | By Dina Smeltz

Trump Supporters' Hardline Views on Immigration Extreme Even for GOP

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a Trump for President campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

With the doom and gloom of the Republican campaign rhetoric thus far, it seems that GOP presidential candidates have taken the measure of an electorate that is in a thoroughly downbeat mood. There is some basis for that in a recent PRRI survey that also indicates that Americans backing Donald Trump stand out from other Republican candidates' supporters in their particularly negative outlook.
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released the results of the 2015 American Values Survey in November, and found that seven in ten Americans across the political spectrum believe the country is still in a recession (72%). Opinion is evenly divided on whether America’s best days are ahead (49%) or behind (49%) it. These views vary by partisan affiliation, with Republicans and those Independents leaning Republican more negative about the status of the United States than Democrats. Most negative of all are the Tea Party supporters, with just one-third saying that America’s best days are ahead.
While I would have liked to see what Trump’s supporters said about whether America’s greatness is ahead or behind, that data was not reported. But in their article titled “What Animates Trump Supporters” on the PRRI blog, Joanna Piacenza and Robert Jones outline some of the unique characteristics and attitudes expressed by supporters of Donald Trump. Specifically:
Trump supporters are also much more likely than supporters of other candidates to come from the white working class (55% among Trump backers, compared to about a third for the other candidates). Perhaps as such, Trump supporters are particularly likely to believe that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities (74% compared to 57% of other GOP candidates agree). Though not a majority, a sizable minority of Trump supporters (42%) say that white men face a lot of discrimination in the country today—12 percentage points higher than the percentage among those who back a different candidate (30%). 
Trump supporters differ most from those backing other Republican candidates in their personal perspectives about immigration and negative views of immigrants. Seven in ten Trump supporters say that immigration is a critical personal concern (69%) compared to just half of those supporting other GOP hopefuls (50%). Eight in ten Trump supporters say that immigrants today are a burden to the United States because they take American jobs, housing, and health care, compared to six in ten among those supporting Republican candidates other than Trump. And Trump backers are 15 percent points more likely than non-Trump supporters to say that coming into contact with immigrants who spoke little or no English bothers them.
As Sara McElmurry and I argue in this article on Foreign Policy, a candidate for the national election must be able to attract votes across political and demographic divides. Hardline positions on immigration and closing borders do not jibe with overall public opinion that leans toward offering undocumented workers a path to citizenship. This point was not lost on the Republican national committee when it conducted an “autopsy” after the 2012 elections. For the GOP’s long-term survival, party leaders concluded that it had to reach out to minorities, especially Latinos, and to “embrace and champion” immigration reform. After all, according to US Census Bureau projections, more than half of the country’s children under the age of 18 are expected to be “part of a minority race or ethnic group” by 2020.
I recommend that you read the full survey American Values Survey and the blog postings yourself for more insights.


The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.


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