DES MOINES — Anti-immigration stances carry little weight with GOP caucusgoers, and opposing immigration reforms can be damaging in a general election, according to a new survey highlighted Tuesday by Iowa Republicans.
The poll was produced by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a national bipartisan advocacy group for immigration reform, and the conservative consulting firm Burning Glass Consulting.
More than four in five likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers said they would support a presidential candidate who supports some form of a pathway to legal status for immigrants living in the country illegally, the poll found.
The survey also showed more than half of general election voters would be less likely to vote for a candidate whom they view as anti-immigration.
“It’s clear that it’s time for a reset for Republicans and how they view this issue,” said John Stineman, a Republican strategist and consultant who managed Steve Forbes’ 2000 presidential campaign. “The simple talking points and trying to get through the answer in one sentence is not going to play with caucusgoers anymore. And oversimplifying the issue doesn’t work either.”
In the crowded field of Republicans running for president — the total is expected to climb to 16 in the coming weeks — most have repeatedly answered questions on immigration by saying the nation must first secure its borders, particularly with Mexico.
And many GOP candidates have stated their opposition to creating a program that would allow immigrants to earn some type of legal status or citizenship, although some — Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush — support a pathway to citizenship.
According to the survey, 76 percent of Iowa caucus-goers said they would be willing to support a candidate who supports a multiple-step path to citizenship.
“There seems to be a disconnect between the actual beliefs of Iowa Republicans and how those beliefs are portrayed by the national media,” said Jeff Angelo, a radio personality and former Iowa state senator. “The perception is that candidates have to go hard right on immigration in the primary, and as the polling results clearly indicate, the notion that a pro-reform candidate can’t win the Iowa caucus is an absolute myth.”
The poll also showed 72 percent of general election voters polled in 10 swing states, including Iowa, think undocumented immigrants should be allowed to obtain legal status, while just 22 percent think those immigrants should be deported.
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