POLLING ANALYSIS CASTS DOUBT ON CLAIMS THAT CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM WOULD IMPACT 2014 RACES
Data from districts of incumbent support and of incumbent opposition suggest that issue of immigration had negligible impact on voter turnout and voter decision
Obamacare, Economy and Jobs, Government Spending, and Social Issues such as Abortion and Same Sex Marriage are top issues driving Texas voters
New York, NY — A survey of Republican primary voters in three Texas Congressional Districts with contested races shows that the immigration was not a material factor in voter turnout or voter decisions at the polls — regardless of candidate opposition or support for reform. Consistent with conventional wisdom, Obamacare is the primary vote motivator, followed closely by the Economy and Jobs, Government Spending, and Social Issues such as Abortion and Same Sex Marriage.
“The excuses for inaction on immigration reform seem weaker every day,” said John Feinblatt, Chairman of the Partnership for a New American Economy. “The clear long term benefits for the Republican Party of enacting immigration reform have too long been held hostage to the fear of short term repercussions by the small but vocal opposition to immigration. This poll makes clear that those fears are overblown and that now, more than ever, is the time to finally fix our broken immigration system.”
The national media has reported a divide among Republican leaders as to whether it is strategically the right moment to address immigration reform, with supporters arguing that the long-term future of the Party depends on it and opponents arguing that addressing the issue now could hurt the Party’s immediate electoral prospects by distracting from Obamacare or decreasing voter turnout. This survey tests the latter hypothesis by analyzing election results from the recent Texas GOP primary elections to determine what impact incumbent support for immigration had on both turnout and voter decisions.
Three separate races were analyzed: (1) A vocal incumbent supporter of comprehensive immigration reform (Representative Sam Johnson TX-3), (2) An incumbent who has been opposed to the recent comprehensive immigration reform efforts (Representative Lamar Smith TX-21), and (3) An incumbent who has made some statements in support of legalizing some undocumented immigrants but has not embraced the comprehensive immigration reform efforts (Representative Kevin Brady TX-8).
The survey’s findings suggest that immigration reform had a negligible impact on voter behavior, neither causing voters to stay home nor causing voters to support or oppose a particular candidate. Instead, Obamacare, Jobs, and Government spending were the issues that drove voter behavior.
The survey, by Austin, Texas based Baselice & Associates Inc., was conducted March 15-16th in Texas CD-3 (Rep. Sam Johnson), CD-8 (Rep. Lamar Smith), and CD 21 (Rep. Kevin Brady), surveyed 200 registered voters in each district with a total sample margin of error of +/-4.0% (+/-6.9% in each CD).
Specifically, the survey found that:
- Support for immigration reform did not depress voter turnout: Of the 169 base voters surveyed who did not cast a vote on Election Day, just one single voter reported that immigration reform was the reason he or she stayed home.
- Voters who ranked immigration as a top or second most important issue were in fact slightly more likely to turnout than those who ranked Obamacare as their top or second most important issue, by a margin of 76% to 71%. This held true for the district where the incumbent was a supporter of reform and for the district where the incumbent was an opponent. In Representative Johnson’s district just 8% of voters who reported that immigration was their top issue stayed home on Election Day, compared to 10% of voters who ranked Obamacare their top issue. In Lamar Smith’s district none of the voters who ranked immigration reform a top issue reported staying home on Election Day, compared to 1% who ranked Obamacare their top issue.
- An incumbent’s position on immigration reform had almost no perceptible impact on the likelihood of voter support: The percentage of voters who reported voting for Rep. Lamar Smith and who ranked immigration reform as their top or second most important issue was just 1% higher than the percentage who reported voting for him overall, suggesting that immigration voters were no more likely to vote for him than voters generally. Similarly, the percentage of immigration voters who reported voting for Rep. Sam Johnson was just 4% below the percentage who reported voting for him overall, suggesting negligible or modest impact of his positions on voting decisions.
- What actually drove primary voters’ voting decisions were Obamacare, Jobs, and Government Spending: 30% of respondents ranked Obamacare as their top issue motivating their election decisions, compared to 21% for the Economy and Jobs, 17% for Government Spending, and 11% for Social Issues Like Abortion and Traditional Marriage. Just 5% of respondents cited Immigration as their top issue. This was true across all districts surveyed. For Rep. Johnson, the proponent of immigration reform, immigration was essentially a nonissue. Just 3% of the voters who voted in Rep. Johnson’s district ranked immigration reform as the top issue that drove their decision. For immigration reform opponent Lamar Smith, just 5% of respondents did.
- This was equally true for the most conservative voters: Among self-identified very conservative voters, immigration paled in comparison to other social issues like abortion or traditional marriage, which were the top driving issue for 16% of voters, compared to just 4% for immigration and 33% for Obamacare. For very aligned Tea Party voters, the same was true. 12% of Tea Party voters voted primarily on social issues like abortion or traditional marriage while just 3% voted primarily on immigration and 36% voted on Obamacare.
- While it may not influence their decisions to go to the polls or whom they vote for, Texas Republicans are actually in support of immigration reform this year: 74% of Republican voters think its important to do immigration reform this year. Surprisingly, respondents were actually more likely to believe that it is important to pass immigration reform this year in Rep. Lamar Smith’s district (76%), who opposes reform, than in Rep. Sam Johnson’s (69%), who supports reform.
About the Partnership for a New American Economy
The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. The Partnership’s members include mayors of more than 35 million people nationwide and business leaders of companies that generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than 4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High Tech and Media to Manufacturing. Partnership members understand that immigration is essential to maintaining the productive, diverse and flexible workforce that America needs to ensure prosperity over the coming generations. Learn more at www.RenewOurEconomy.org.
 See, for example, Wall Street Journal, “Republican Strategists Split: Focus on 2014 or 2016?: Steps on Immigration Could Hurt in Midterms but Help in Presidential Race,” by Laura Meckler and Beth Reinhardt, March 19, 2014, available at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304026304579449701575636212
 See, for example, New York Times, “House Group Works to Present Its Own Immigration Plan,” by Ashley Parker, Feb. 2, 2013, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/us/politics/a-secret-bipartisan-group-with-its-own-immigration-plan.html?_r=0
 See Roll Call, “Republicans Need to Face the Facts on Immigration Reform,” by Rep. Lamar Smith, July 22, 2013, available at http://www.rollcall.com/news/republicans_need_to_face_the_facts_on_immigration_reform_commentary-226542-1.html
 See National Journal, “Who’s Leading Immigration Reform In the House,” by Tim Alberta, August 5, 2013 available at http://kevinbrady.house.gov/kevin-brady-in-the-news/whos-leading-immigration-reform-in-the-house/