Trump Put Immigration Back In The Headlines. Will It Boost GOP Turnout?
Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.
Poll(s) of the week
President Trump has fixated on immigration in the days leading up to next week’s midterm elections, perhaps in the hopes that it will drive Republicans to the polls. Since mid-October, he has made the thousands of Central American migrants who have said they are traveling to the U.S. to seek asylum a focal point of his tweets and public statements, most recently in a press conference Thursday. And earlier this week, he intensified his hardline immigration agenda, telling Axios that he wants to use an executive order to ban birthright citizenship. It’s difficult to know whether, or how much, stoking fears about illegal immigration will help Republicans turn out the vote, but a new poll from The Economist and YouGov gives us some clues as to why Trump might think it will.
For starters, there’s evidence that Trump’s rhetoric on the migrant caravan has resonated with his base. Republicans — especially Trump voters — were more likely than Democrats to have heard “a lot” about the caravan, and a majority of Republicans said the U.S. should “reject all of the immigrants in the caravan” (as opposed to accepting all of them or accepting only those who have a valid claim for asylum). Also, Trump’s dubious claim that the caravan contained “unknown Middle Easterners” (there have been no reports from intelligence agencies to suggest that this is true, and Trump later said he has no proof to support it) appears to have been widely believed by Republicans. Forty-seven percent said they thought that “some” of the people in the caravan were “Middle Eastern terrorists.” And 72 percent of Republicans said they “strongly approve” of Trump’s order to deploy thousands of troops to the border ahead of the caravan’s arrival.
Also in the YouGov poll, immigration was the most frequent response among Republicans when they were asked what the most important issue to them was; 20 percent chose it from a list of 15 issues (the economy ranked second, with 17 percent). Among independents, immigration came in second (13 percent said it was the most important issue to them) — which could be good news for Republicans looking to win among independents. (Among Democrats, immigration was tied for sixth place — their top answer was health care.)
So maybe Trump really is tapping into an issue that will motivate Republicans to vote. But much of his success will boil down to whether he is able to turn out voters in key swing states with close races. That said, a recent CBS News/YouGov poll of voters in Arizona, Florida and Indiana found that a vast majority of Republicans said immigration was “very important” to their vote for Congress this year. All three states have a competitive Senate race on the ballot. Several House races in Arizona and Florida are especially close, and Florida has a tight gubernatorial race as well.
What voters see as an important issue and what motivates them to vote can depend on the current news cycle, although the effects can fade. For instance, Republican enthusiasm about the midterm elections surged in October polls after Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s heated confirmation hearing. But there are some signs that the excitement has died down. In the most recent Economist/YouGov poll, Republicans’ enthusiasm to vote in the midterms dropped 3 points, compared with the previous week.
It’s still too soon to know what will happen in the polls in the wake of the pipe bombs that were mailed to prominent Democratic critics of Trump or in response to the anti-Semitic shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead. So while it’s possible that immigration could drive Republicans to vote on Election Day and maybe even make a difference in some key races, it’s also entirely possible that enthusiasm around immigration issues could weaken in the coming days.
Other polling nuggets
A CNN poll conducted by SSRS of Arizona’s Senate race found that Democrat Kyrsten Sinema had lost ground to Republican Martha McSally but was still ahead by 4 percentage points. An NBC News/Marist College poll, meanwhile, found that Sinema had a 6-point lead. As of Thursday afternoon, FiveThirtyEight’s Classic forecast rated the race as a “toss-up” and gave Sinema a 3 in 5 chance of winning.
A poll of North Dakota voters by Trafalgar Group found Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp 9 points behind her Republican opponent, Kevin Cramer (including leaners). Heitkamp has lagged behind Kramer in the polls for a while, and Cramer’s odds of winning in our forecast have improved recently. As of Thursday afternoon, he had a 3 in 4 chance of winning.
The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn, scored a 5-point lead against Democrat Phil Bredesen in an NBC News/Marist poll.
In the Texas Senate race, Republican Ted Cruz maintains a strong streak with a 5-point lead over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke in a Quinnipiac University poll.
A Marquette University Law School poll found Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, tied with Democrat Tony Evers — both received 47 percent in support. As of Thursday afternoon, our forecast rated the seat as a “toss-up.”
43 percent of Americans said the #MeToo movement had gone too far, according to an NPR-Ipsos poll. Americans were more divided along party lines than by gender: The gap between Democrats and Republicans was 54 points (75 percent of Republicans said the movement had gone too far, compared with 21 percent of Democrats), while the gap between men and women was 15 points (51 percent of men vs. 36 percent of women).
60 percent of Massachusetts voters said Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim of Native American ancestry is “not at all important” to their vote in a WBUR poll conducted by MassINC polling.
Last week, NBC canceled Megyn Kelly’s talk show after she asked on the air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. In a poll that was conducted before and after the cancellation, Morning Consult found that 45 percent of Americans thought that punishment would be “too harsh.” Only a quarter of respondents thought canceling her show would be appropriate. However, 42 percent of black Americans said cancellation would be appropriate.
A majority of Americans expressed a lack of confidence in U.S. election security, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say they’re confident that U.S. election systems are secure and less likely than Democrats to believe that Russia or other foreign governments will try to influence the midterm elections.
President Trump’s approval rating is 42.0 percent, according to our tracker. His disapproval rating is 53.2 percent. That makes for a net approval rating of -11.2 points — nearly 2 percentage points worse than last week’s rating of -9.4 points. One month ago, Trump’s net approval rating was -10.9 points (41.8 percent approved and 52.7 percent disapproved).
Democrats have an 8.5-point lead over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot (50.3 percent to 41.8 percent), according to our tracker. Support hasn’t shifted much from a week ago, when Democrats were at 50.0 percent and Republicans were at 42.0 percent. One month ago, Democrats held about the same advantage, 49.4 percent to 41.0 percent.
Check out our 2018 House, Senate and governor forecasts and all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the midterms.