A plurality of U.S. voters point to immigration as the most important issue facing the country, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released exclusively to The Hill on Tuesday.
Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that they see immigration as their top issue – more than the 36 percent who said health care is the most important matter in the country.
The findings come as a deadlock between President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media ‘smeared’ students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE and congressional Democrats over funding for a border wall drags a partial government shutdown into its fifth week.
The findings also suggests that the topic of immigration could play an outsize role in the 2020 election cycle, when Trump will seek a second term in the White House.
“Immigration is surging as the top issue in the country, displacing healthcare,” said Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll.
In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats took over the House with campaign messages largely built on protecting former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama puts out call for service on MLK Day: ‘Make a positive impact on the world’ Trump, Pence visit MLK Memorial Trump offers to limit his border wall to strategic locations MORE’s signature Affordable Care Act (ACA) and expanding access to health care.
Penn said that the rising prominence of immigration as a political issue, however, appeared to be “more of a win for the Trump forces,” given the president’s intense focus on illegal immigration and claims that a crisis is unfolding on the southern border.
That claim is at the center of Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding for his border wall. Democratic lawmakers have rejected that request, leading to the budget standoff.
Trump unveiled a proposal over the weekend that would extend temporary legal protections for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children – known as “Dreamers” – in exchange for the border wall funding.
Democrats have panned that proposal as a nonstarter, accusing Trump of seeking to use protections for Dreamers as leverage for his wall after he rescinded those protections in 2017.
Most U.S. voters – 55 percent – oppose the idea of building a wall along the southern border, according to the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, while 45 percent back the proposal.
But Americans are near-evenly split on whether the U.S. should erect a “security barrier” along the border. Forty-nine percent support such a proposal, while 51 percent opposes it.
Despite that split, an overwhelming majority of respondents said that border security on the U.S. boundary with Mexico is an issue, the poll found.
Nearly half – 49 percent – said that they see border security as a “serious problem,” while another 36 percent said it was a “minor problem.” Only 16 percent said it is “not even a small priority.”
The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 1,540 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 15-16.
The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll throughout 2019.
Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.
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