Republican efforts to sway voters on immigration are failing

Republican efforts to push immigration to the forefront of the midterm campaign are backfiring nationally, new polls show, but could help seal victory for several of their most popular candidates.

Figures released Monday by polling agency Gallup show that voters rank the issue only fifth on their list of priorities, despite the number of migrant apprehensions at the southern border reaches a record level.

But a separate poll by the Siena College Research Institute shows that immigration is a much more important issue to voters in some states such as Florida and Texas. Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, the incumbent Republican governors of those states, have both received a boost with their aggressive moves to ship migrants to liberal states.

The Republican focus on immigration is part of a broader effort by both parties to energize their core voters in the weeks ahead of what will be a tightly contested election. While Republicans are talking up immigration and crime as the campaign enters its final stretch, Democrats are focusing on women’s reproductive rights after the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

Geoff Jones, a Gallup pollster, said: “What we’re seeing more and more with every election is that it’s not about changing people’s minds, it’s about getting the base. Immigration is a good issue to motivate the Republican base.”

Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, said: “How important immigration is to you depends a lot on where you are. In Florida and Texas, it’s the center of Republican thought, and it’s also a big issue for independents.”

In recent weeks, Republicans across the country have focused their campaigns on the issues of crime and immigration, often trying to tie them together in the minds of voters.

Citizens for Sanity, a nonprofit group run by three former Trump administration officials, bought $33 million in television ads focusing on the issues, according to AdImpact. The ads, which are running in states like Nevada, Arizona and Pennsylvania, warn of “drug dealers and sex traffickers roaming free” as a result of what they say is the Biden administration’s “open borders policy.”

Meanwhile, several Republican governors have made political capital on their spectacular moves to bus and plane immigrants from their states to more liberal districts.

Desantis caused outrage when he took a group of immigrants from Texas through Florida to Martha’s Vineyard, a vacation spot favored by many affluent liberal Northeasterners. But the Siena College poll shows that transportation was popular among Republicans and independent voters in both Texas and Florida.

These moves have been seen as so politically effective that even Republican candidates in states far from the border are promising something similar. Doug Mastriano, a Trump ally running for governor of Pennsylvania, said last week that if he wins his race, he will transport undocumented immigrants across state lines.

Last week, Republicans got a further boost when data from Customs and Border Protection showed that officers detained more than 227,000 people at the southern border in September. This is 19% more than in the same period last year.

Under pressure, the Biden administration felt compelled to act. Earlier this month, This was reported by the Department of Internal Security in a sharp U-turn, that he is expanding the use of Section 42, which allows border guards to turn back asylum seekers on public health grounds, so that it now also applies to Venezuelans.

National polling shows that attention to the issue from both parties has had little impact nationally.

Data released Monday by Gallup showed that 37 percent of voters ranked immigration as “extremely important” in the election, ahead of the economy, abortion, crime and gun policy.

That makes it about as important as ever at this point in the election cycle. In 2018, 40% of voters rated it as “extremely important”. Four years ago, this indicator was 31 percent, and in 2010 – 38 percent.

Carol Doherty, director of policy research at the Pew Research Center, said: “Immigration is usually a second-order issue for most voters heading to the polls. One difference this time is that the partisan divide is as big as we’ve ever seen it — Republicans care a lot more about it than Democrats.”

The partisan divide appears to be helping Republican candidates in the South.

In Texas, Abbott leads Democratic challenger Beth O’Rourke by eight points, and in Florida, DeSantis leads Charlie Crist by 11 points. In Arizona, some pollsters suggest that concerns about immigration may have helped propel controversial right-wing gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake to a three-point lead over challenger Kathy Hobbs.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if immigration becomes a defining issue in Arizona,” Levy said. “But in other states farther from the border, like Wisconsin, it tends to be a lower-order problem.”

However, some Democrats believe that Republicans are buying themselves short-term success with their tough immigration rhetoric, but long-term problems among the fast-growing group of Hispanic voters.

“There is evidence that Democrats are leading among Hispanic voters slides” said Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist. “But if Hispanic voters continue to grow at the rate they are now, they will turn traditionally Republican parts of the country increasingly blue.

“It could force Republicans to rethink their position on immigration.”

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