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White Democrats are driving America’s partisan divide on immigration, study reveals

The Asymmetric Polarization of Immigration Opinion in the United States

America’s increasing polarisation on immigration is driven almost entirely by Democrats, who have become far more liberal on the issue since the 1990s while Republican opinions have stayed roughly the same, according to a study.

The paper titled The Asymmetric Polarization of Immigration Opinion in the United States by Trent Ollerenshaw of Duke University and Ashley Jardina of the University of Virginia was published in December last year, found that “immigration views have become markedly polarised along partisan lines”.

However, contrary to what is often claimed in the corporate media, the authors found that the growing divide on immigration – now the most important issue in the USA today – is due to Democrats becoming more extreme on the issue.

“Republicans have maintained their longstanding anti-immigrant orientation over this period, and on some issues, like border restrictions, became even more conservative,” the study found.

“Democrats, in contrast, who were also quite anti-immigrant during the 1990s and early 2000s, became much more supportive of immigrants and immigration, especially after 2016.”

The most pronounced shifts were among White Democrats, although Whites on average are still more anti-immigration than Blacks and Hispanics.The Asymmetric Polarization of Immigration Opinion in the United States

The study found that White Democrats are responsible for a warming of views on illegal immigrants, and on whether immigrants are “not at all likely” to take American jobs.

In 2004 a roughly equal proportion of White Democrats and Republicans – 17.1% and 13.8% respectively – agreed with the above statement. In 2020 57.2% of White Democrats agreed, while only 14.4% of White Republicans did, compared to 35% nationally.

Similarly, White Democrats diverged from their Republican counterparts on the question of whether immigrants strengthen America, on support for increasing immigration, and on border control.

Opinion and attitude gaps remained steady on opposition to a ban on refugee admissions, opposition to increased border patrols, and opposition to a border wall.

On the issue of support for amnesty programs for law-abiding illegal immigrants, the partisan divide doubled between 2011 and 2021 due to increasing support among Democrats and declining support among Republicans.

The Asymmetric Polarization of Immigration Opinion in the United States

The authors suggested that the liberalisation and polarisation of views on the issue could be due to Americans adopting the attitudes of in-party elites, or could be as a result of “partisan sorting” of individuals with stable attitudes.

They also noted that because Whites are a shrinking proportion of the Democrat voter base the political consequences of their radicalisation on immigration may be muted.

“The views of Americans opposed to immigration may be more politically consequential since they are likely to view the issue as more important and with greater conviction than pro-immigrant Americans,” the study concluded.

“Democrats’ vocal opposition to anti-immigrant policies has been rare under the Biden administration, which has actually maintained some of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

“Unless Democrats prioritize immigration as an important issue, anti-immigrant segments of the electorate will likely continue to disproportionately influence American immigration policy.”

The Asymmetric Polarization of Immigration Opinion in the United States

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