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Poll Shows That Immigration A Non-Issue for Voters in Rep. Renee Ellmers’ (NC-2) Race

Data show that issue of immigration neither impacted voters’ decisions at the polls nor led to their staying home

When presented with the issue of immigration, voters overwhelmingly support Speaker Boehner’s immigration reform plan and want action on immigration reform this year

View the poll cross tabs | View the poll questions 

New York, NY – A survey of actual Republican primary voters in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District showed that despite the prominence that the issue of immigration had in the race – particularly after conservative commentators championed the issue[i] – immigration was not a material factor in voter turnout or voter decisions at the polls. Consistent with other primary races this year, voters ranked the Economy and Obamacare as the two most important issues. In fact, immigration ranked last among issues polled including the Economy, Obamacare, Moral Issues like Abortion and Gay Marriage, Jobs, and Spending. Further, not a single voter surveyed who stayed home reported that immigration was the primary reason they did not vote, and just 4 percent of voters who stayed home cited immigration as having any impact on their decision.

When asked about the immigration issue, 71 percent of voters surveyed said they support a plan in line with Speaker Boehner’s immigration reform standards[ii] with 71 percent in favor of a way for undocumented immigrants to attain legal status or U.S. citizenship. 78 percent of respondents said that they want Congress to pass immigration reform this year.

“It is clear that immigration was not a top tier issue for voters in this primary,” said pollster Glen Bolger, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies.  “Primary voters also strongly back the “Boehner Plan” for immigration reform, once they learn it would include improved border security and enforcement, as well as a way for the undocumented immigrants who are already in this country to stay in this country, IF they pay penalties, pay back taxes, and learn English.”

“Renee Ellmers’ victory shows what we already knew — that supporting immigration reform means standing up for what the majority of Americans believe should happen this year,” said John Feinblatt, Chairman of New American Economy. “Clearly, immigration reform is both smart policy and smart politics. There is no reason for Congressional inaction.”

Specifically, the survey found that:

  • Voters ranked immigration the least important issue polled: Immigration ranked as the least important issue (just 6 percent of voters ranked it most important) placing last behind the Economy (28 percent), Obamacare (25 percent), Moral Issues like Abortion and Gay Marriage (15 percent), Jobs (10 percent), and Spending (9 percent) for Republican base voters.
    • Immigration also ranked last among those who self-identify as strong conservatives (6 percent) and Tea Party supporters (7 percent).
    • Voters who reported that they knew some or a lot about Rep. Ellmers’ stance on immigration still ranked the issue as least important (7 percent).
  • Support for immigration reform did not depress voter turnoutNot a single respondent reported that immigration was the primary reason they stayed home on voting day, and just 4 percent of those who stayed home reported that immigration had any impact on their decision.
    • Despite her position on immigration, Rep. Ellmers did better among those who identify as strong-GOP voters (59 percent) than she did among those who identify as more moderate (53 percent).
  • While it may not influence their decision to go to the polls or whom they vote for, North Carolina Republicans are in support of immigration reform this year: 78 percent said that Congress should act this year, including 76 percent of those who identify as strong conservatives and 73 percent of those who identify as Tea Party supporters.
    • 71 percent said that they support a plan in line with Speaker Boehner’s standards, including 73 percent of those who identify as strong conservatives and 66 percent of those who identify as Tea Party supporters.
    • 71 percent said that they support a way for undocumented immigrants to attain legal status or U.S. citizenship, including 70 percent of those who identify as strong conservatives and 66 percent of those who identify as Tea Party supporters.

These results are in line with a poll of primary voters in Texas this past March that analyzed three contested Congressional Districts – one with an incumbent supporter of the immigration reform, one with an incumbent opponent, and one with an incumbent in the middle. In all three races, immigration had a negligible impact on voter turnout and voter decision.

The North Carolina Congressional District 2 post-election survey was conducted by Alexandria, Virginia based Public Opinion Strategies on May 6th and surveyed 400 Republican voters who have voted in past GOP primaries, 300 of whom voted on Election Day this year, and 100 of whom did not. The total sample has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

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[i] The primary has been covered in numerous national and local stories as centering on Ellmers’ outspoken support for immigration reform. Earlier this year, Ellmers, in a heated debate over the topic with a talk radio host, called the host’s opposition to reform “ignorant” and stressed her support for a plan to “deal with those who are here.” Ellmers’ opponent, Frank Roche, has signed a “No Amnesty” pledge sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform Congressional Task Force. The issue also became a topic of discussion with other conservative commentators.

Some examples of the national and local coverage of the role that immigration played in this race include:

  • Politico, March 13 2014, “Renee Ellmers: Laura Ingraham’s ‘ignorant’ stand”
  • Raleigh News Observer, May 2 2014, “Immigration group endorses Roche over Ellmers”
  • Politico Pro, May 6 2014, “The 1 House race where immigration matters”
  • WSJ, May 6 2014, “Polling Immigration”
  • Daily Caller, May 5 2014, “It’s all about amnesty, part XXVIII”
  • Newsmax, May 2 2014, “Anti-Immigration Pledge Dividing GOP”
  • American Thinker, April 25 2014, “A Passionate Republican Amnesty Advocate: Congresswoman Renee Ellmers”
  • Daily Caller, April 16 2014, “Ann Coulter: Back any candidate you want as long as it’s one of these three”
  • Real Clear Politics, March 13 2014, “GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers Calls Laura Ingraham ‘Ignorant’ for Opposing Immigration Reform”
  • Daily Caller, Jan 2014, “Rep. Ellmers backs conditional amnesty, fuels primary challenge”
  • Raleigh News & Observer, May 5 2014, “GOP uncertainty over immigration reflects party’s identity crisis”
  • Charlotte Observer, May 3 2014, “In final stretch, money gets tight”
  • Raleigh News Observer, May 2 2014, “Immigration group endorses Roche over Ellmers”
  • The Pilot, April 25 2014, “For Republicans, a fight over who’s more conservative”
  • The Cary News, April 22 2014, “In NC, a contest between Ellmers and Roche to see who is more conservative”
  • Greensboro News & Record, Mar 14 2014, “Ellmers slammed for not going stupid on immigration”
  • Raleigh News & Observer, Feb 20 2014, “Ellmers shows courage on immigration reform”
  • The Cary News, Feb 20 2014, & Raleigh News & Observer, Feb 19 2014, “Renee Ellmers reaffirms her support for legal status for immigrants”
  • Raleigh News & Observer, Feb 7 2014, “Immigration could bedevil Rep. Ellmers in her re-election campaign”
  • Greensboro News & Record, Jan 22 2014, “Immigration reform is unfriendly issue for Republicans”
  • Fay Observer, Jan 18 2014, “Renee Ellmers: How do you solve a problem like immigration?”
  • PJ Media, May 6 2014, “Zero hour for halting amnesty: Frank Roche/Renee Ellmers primary today”
  • Laura Ingraham, April 30 2014, “Will your candidate protect American workers? Make sure they sign the pledge”
  • The Daily Haymaker, April 25 2014, “Boehner, Ellmers mock and show disdain for amnesty opponents”
  • VDARE, April 17 2014, “Ann Coulter: Don’t Primary Republicans – Unless They’re for Amnesty!”
  • News Busters, April 16 2014, “Coulter Column: Three Republicans who deserve your support in the primaries”
  • Right Wing News, March 24 2014, “Republican Renee Ellmers Curses at and Berates anti-amnesty constituent”
  • The Daily Haymaker, Feb 1 2014, “Ellmers moves puts amnesty for illegal aliens at the center of her primary fight”

[ii] Respondents were asked: “Thinking some more about immigration reform, some members of Congress have proposed a plan for immigration reform that would include BOTH improved border security and enforcement, as well as a way for the undocumented immigrants who are already in the country to stay in this country, IF they pay penalties, pay back taxes, and learn English.  Would you favor or oppose this plan?”  For a comparison of this question to the immigration reform standards proposed by Speaker Boehner, see “Draft Standards for Step-by-Step Immigration Reform,” accessed May 7, 2014, available here: http://assets.speaker.gov/documents/Immigration-Standards.pdf

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…