Most Americans Oppose Current GOP Policies On Immigration, New Poll Finds

A new poll finds that most Americans oppose key elements of the immigration policies that the President and Republicans in Congress support.

A new poll finds that a majority of Americans oppose key parts of the immigration plan being pushed by President Trump and many Republicans in Congress:

Americans overwhelmingly oppose the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, and smaller majorities also disagree with the president’s call to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to restrict legal immigration by limiting citizens from bringing parents and siblings to this country, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll.

On other aspects of the immigration debate, however, a more mixed picture emerges. Americans are more closely divided on the question of whether enough is being done to prevent illegal immigration and whether the country has gone too far in welcoming immigrants. Also, more people say they trust President Trump than congressional Democrats to deal with the issue of border security. The support for Trump on the border-security issue is especially evident in congressional districts considered key battlegrounds in this fall’s midterm elections.


The nation remains deeply ­divided along party lines, as it has been throughout and before Trump’s presidency. Two other divisions define the political environment of 2018. On issues of immigration, as well as questions about Trump’s presidency, the gaps between men and women and between white voters with and without college degrees are sizable. Women and white college-educated voters are far more dissatisfied with the president and his policies than are men and white voters without college educations. However, gaps based on education are less significant in battleground districts.

Trump’s overall approval stands at 43 percent, while his disapproval is 55 percent. Among men, 54 percent approve; among women, 32 percent approve.

His handling of immigration draws slightly higher disapproval, with 39 percent approving and 59 percent disapproving. More than twice as many say they strongly disapprove as say they strongly approve. Among men, 51 percent disapprove, but among women, 67 percent disapprove. Among whites with college educations, 68 percent disapprove, but among non-college whites, 56 percent approve.


The survey looked at a variety of aspects of the immigration debate, which has been front and center since the outcry over the separation of immigrant children from parents who were detained after coming across the border.

On immigration, almost 7 in 10 (69 percent) say they opposed the policy that separated immigrant children from their parents, compared with 29 percent who supported the policy. About 6 in 10 Republicans supported it.

Trump’s decision to reverse the policy drew widespread support, with three-quarters of Americans backing that decision. Asked about what to do now, a majority of Americans say they want families detained together rather than temporarily released until their court appearances and possible deportation.

The vivid imagery of the children contributed to the backlash that forced Trump to reverse course. About 3 in 4 say they were bothered by the photos and stories about children being held separately from their parents, and nearly half of all Americans — including 6 in 10 women — said they were bothered a lot.

But as to who is to blame for families being separated, the public is more divided, with 37 percent saying the Trump administration bears responsibility, 35 percent saying the blame goes to migrant families trying to enter the United States and 25 percent saying both are equally to blame. A 41 percent plurality of women blame the Trump administration, while a 43 percent plurality of men blame migrants.

Trump’s suggestion that U.S. immigration policy has become a magnet for criminals and gang members is rejected by most Americans. Roughly 4 in 10 say the biggest reason most people enter illegally is to flee danger in their own countries, with another 4 in 10 saying they are drawn because of economic opportunities. Just 6 percent nationally say most people enter as part of the drug trade or gangs.

A plurality of Americans (48 percent) say that this country’s history of welcoming immigrants has been mainly good, while 4 in 10 say it has been both good and bad, and 11 percent say it has been mainly bad. As to whether immigration has gone too far, Americans are divided into three almost equal groups, with about a third saying it has gone too far, a third saying it has not gone far enough, and almost a third saying the right balance has been struck.

A bare majority (51 percent) say the United States is doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from coming into the country, compared with 46 percent who do not. But that bare majority who feel enough is being done is considerably higher than it was during the first decade of this century. The overall results mask deep differences between the parties, with 2 in 3 Democrats saying enough is being done, while just 1 in 3 Republicans agree.

Looking deeper into the poll, we find results similar to those that we’d seen in other polling when it comes to immigration issues. For example, most Americans support the idea of allowing immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to remain in the country and allowing for them to have a path to citizenship provided that they pass the relevant background checks and do not have a violent criminal record. Smaller majorities also support requiring employers to verify that the people they hire are legally permitted to work in the United States as well as increasing funding for border security, although there is not majority support for President Trump’s border wall. These policies are supported by clear majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

There is, however, a significant partisan imbalance on the issues that the poll shows most Americans oppose, including the Administration’s zero-tolerance and child separation policies, President Trump’s border wall, and restricting legal immigration, the poll shows that majorities of self-identified Republicans support these policies while majorities of Democrats and Independents oppose them. This is consistent with other polling that has taken place over the past three weeks that shows that, while most Americans oppose barbaric ideas like separating parents and children at the border, most Republicans are perfectly fine with it. More than anything else, this is a perfect sign of just how morally depraved the Republican Party has become when it comes to immigration policy.

The big question, of course, is what impact public opinion on these issues will have in November. Typically, immigration-related issues have not been among the top-ranked issues that voters have cited as being the biggest influence in determining who they will vote for. More often than not, the top-ranked issues tend to be so-called “pocketbook” issues such as the state of the economy, the jobs picture, and health care, along with the voters own assessment of their personal economic situation, that have played the biggest role in that regard. This poll, though, shows that immigration is cited by 19% of voters as being an important issue in the upcoming elections. This puts it in third place behind jobs and the economy (24%) and health care (20%) on the list of issues presently on voters minds. On the immigration issue, Republicans have a slight advantage over Democrats who cite this as an important issue, with 47% of those respondents saying they’d back a Republican in November while 40% say they’d support a Democrat. This suggests that immigration could end up being an issue that proves to be more of a motivator for the GOP in the fall.

All of this could change over the next four months, of course. The main reason that immigration is being cited as one of the top three issues motivating voters is that it has been in the news in a significant way for three weeks now. There’s no telling if that will hold up as we get closer to the election itself. After tonight, for example, there’s going to be much attention paid to the Supreme Court and the fight to confirm whoever the President ends up selecting, and there are any number of issues that could arise between now and November 6th. For now, though, it looks like immigration policy is likely to play a bigger role in the midterm fight than it has in the past.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Environment, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    the poll shows that majorities of self-identified Republicans support these policies while majorities of Democrats and Independents oppose them.

    Therefor they will impose them because minority rule gives them a mandate to do anything they damned well please.

  2. Tyrell says:

    When I go to the theme parks, I have a process to go through. I must present my ticket or yearly pass to enter. I do not sneak over or under the fence. I go through a secure search: my bag is searched and I walk through a detector. I then see a list of rules that I must follow, such as: no breaking in lines, shoes and shirt required except for the pool, no running, no smoking except in permitted areas. I do not ask for nor expect free food or souvenirs.
    While this may not be a perfect analogy, it gives the picture.
    Most people support legal immigration. Thousands of people enter this country every day. They have gone through the procedures, the system, the law. Many legal immigrants oppose the illegal immigration and any proposals for amnesty. And that is not based on any hatred or bigotry.
    The immigration law may not be perfect, but it is for Congress to modify or change it.

  3. barbintheboonies says:

    The immigration laws were on the books a long time. This president wants to enforce them for common sense reasons. They are a burden on our economy. The socialist, left only want their votes and do not actually care a bit about them. Look at all out Democrat run states, they have become unrecognizable, due to homelessness, and crime. I am sick to death of people defending the lawlessness that has taken over our city streets.

  4. Bob@Youngstown says:


    The immigration laws were on the books a long time. This president wants to enforce them for common sense reasons. They are a burden on our economy.

    Yes, they (the immigration laws) are a burden on our economy.

  5. EddieInCA says:


    That’s such crap. “..lawlessness that has taken over our city streets”. Really?

    Stop watching Fox News. Violent crime is actually down to near lows over the last 30 years.

    And immigrants are a net positive for the economy, not a burden.

    Stop. Watching. Fox. News.

  6. EddieInCA says:

    Can my comment be removed from moderation, please?

  7. teve tory says:

    That’s Donald Trump alright. Just so gosh darn committed to following The Law.

    Personally, as a liberal, I’m not so concerned with the economy. I mostly want illegal immigrants so we can steal millions more votes for President in California.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    @barbintheboonies: Immigration laws can be enforced without taking children away from their parents and locking them in cages…who are the members of this socialist left that you are talking about? Oh, and if we are talking about crime-ridden states, many of them are Republican-run, not “Democrat”-run, sweetie…

  9. An Interested Party says:

    Can someone release my comments? Thank you.

  10. Mister Bluster says:

    @Tyrell:..While this may not be a perfect analogy, it gives the picture.
    It gives a picture of Disneyland! Part of which is aptly named Fantasyland!
    Just like your so called analogy
    Here is an outdated picture of the path to a Green Card.
    About the only thing in Disneyland I would wait that long in line for is Space Mountain!

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    @barbintheboonies:..I am sick to death of people defending the lawlessness that has taken over our city streets.

    Come on Barb! You know you can do it!
    Name ten people you are sick of while you “sit up in attention” as your Supreme Leader and Chairman of the REPUBLICAN Sex Workers Party, Kim Jong Trump has demanded of you!
    (Good thing Pud doesn’t want you to stand on your head! I’m confident you would do that too!)

  12. Tyrell says:

    @Mister Bluster: 60 – 80 minute wait most days.

  13. Mister Bluster says:

    @Tyrell:..60-80 min wait

    Yeah, it’s a tough life waiting in line to see Tinkerbell.

  14. teve tory says:

    @EddieInCA: I just saw that Mar-a-Lago is applying to hire 61 foreigners right now. So maybe Barb meant that Trump’s businesses in particular are hurting the economy?

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @barbintheboonies: Thank you for the demonstration of our root problem. “The immigration laws were on the books a long time.” is true, and the only true statement in your comment. Illegal immigration and crime are way down over the last many years. New York and California are doing great. I don’t know who the “socialist, left” is, but Obama was noted for aggressive immigration enforcement.

    You are an exemplar of the problem, Barb. As long as Republicans can depend on the 30-40% of the electorate who, like you, believe the nonsense from the Conservative Echo Chamber it will continue to be nearly impossible to govern sensibly.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell: 60-80 minute wait for a green card? And to think it took my wife years to get hers. Boy is she gonna be pissed when I tell her.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @barbintheboonies: What world do you live in?

  18. Tyrell says:

    @Mister Bluster: Actually the Tinkerbell – Peter Pan ride is a short walk from Space Mountain. There is always a long line there, most of the time longer than Space Mountain. The ride is good for the younger children, not worth the wait for the older kids and adults.

  19. Kylopod says:

    OT, concerning the forum’s technical features.

    Something I’ve suspected for a while, I’ve increasingly confirmed. I don’t think the upvote button is quite working. (The same is probably true about the downvote button, but since I rarely use it I can’t say for sure.) When I upvote a comment, if I immediately refresh–and sometimes if I wait several minutes before refreshing–the upvoted totals below a user’s comment disappears and it goes back to what it was previously. I’m getting the sense that new upvotes get “stuck” and don’t display for a long time–possibly until any new comments are posted.

    For example, I just clicked to upvote one of gVOR08’s comments above. Before, it had showed 1 upvote. After I clicked, it immediately jumped to 4. (I’ve seen this sort of thing happen before.) After I refreshed the page, it was back to 1 upvote. I’m going to see if that changes after I post this comment.

  20. Kylopod says:

    Yup–as I suspected, after I posted my comment, the upvotes on gVOR08’s comment immediately jumped from 1 to 4. Somehow, the upvotes are getting “stuck” and not displaying until new comments are posted to a thread.

  21. Mister Bluster says:

    Somehow, the upvotes are getting “stuck” and not displaying until new comments are posted to a thread.

    These are trying times.
    I am resigned to typing my nom de plume and eMail address into the appropriate fields before each post unlike the “old days” when somehow the technology relieved me of that task.
    I too have noticed the occasional lagging up votes if I bother to exercise my OTB franchise.
    Sure hope we all make it through this.

    Edit: Just gave myself an up vote. Damn that felt good!

  22. teve tory says:

    Edit: Just gave myself an up vote. Damn that felt good!

    I did that once by accident and felt embarrassed. It felt like something a Trumper would do. 😛

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: If you double click the name and email dialogue boxes, you should get a menu of choices to click on to fill the box. At least that’s how it works on my interwebs thingie.

  24. Mister Bluster says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:..double click

    there is a small icon and down arrow in the boxes and scrolling over them changes them from black to blue but clicking does nothing.

  25. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Edit: Just gave myself an up vote. Damn that felt good!

    I post of my comments here from work (have to do something while I pretend to be working, yes?). When I check the blog at home, I can upvote my own comments.

    I don’t do that (what for?) But logic dictates I should also be able to upvote comments I’ve already upvoted, and downvote ones I’ve already downvoted.

    To quote Bart Simpson “This isn’t about me, or how many times I voted.”