Trump could help his own cause by soft­en­ing im­mi­gra­tion stance

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - By­ron York Colum­nist By­ron York is chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner.

Don­ald Trump and his top aides can jus­ti­fi­ably be sat­is­fied with his stun­ningly suc­cess­ful trip to Mex­ico. At the same time, Trump has con­tin­ued to sow con­fu­sion about his stand on im­mi­gra­tion — no this over­all po­si­tion but specif­i­cally about his in­ten­tions re­gard­ing the 12 mil­lion im­mi­grants who are in this coun­try il­le­gally. Will he soften his stance on de­por­ta­tions?

The text of Trump’s speech in Ari­zona sug­gested there has in­deed been a soft­en­ing of Trump’s orig­i­nal de­port-them-all ap­proach. But it sure didn’t sound like soft­en­ing. And the change --Trump will al­low mil­lions of il­le­gal im­mi­grants to stay in the coun­try and re­con­sider their sta­tus only af­ter new se­cu­rity mea­sures are put in place — was an­nounced in a con­fus­ing way that left even fair-minded lis­ten­ers un­sure of what Trump was propos­ing.

Then, af­ter nearly two weeks of sug­gest­ing first that there would be soft­en­ing in his pro­posal, and then that there would not be soft­en­ing, on the morn­ing af­ter the speech, Trump told ra­dio host Laura In­gra­ham that there would, in fact, be “quite a bit of soft­en­ing” in his ap­proach.

If that is in­deed Trump’s new ap­proach, it is in line with voter sen­ti­ment re­vealed in a Fox News Poll re­leased at nearly the same mo­ment he took the stage in Ari­zona. The Fox find­ings sug­gest that if Trump were to ac­tu­ally soften his po­si­tion on de­por­ta­tions, he would strengthen his stand­ing not only with the in­de­pen­dent vot­ers whose sup­port he is seek­ing, but with the vot­ers whose sup­port he al­ready has.

First, Fox asked, “What do you think should hap­pen to the il­le­gal im­mi­grants who are cur­rently work­ing in the United States — do you fa­vor de­port­ing as many as pos­si­ble or do you fa­vor set­ting up a sys­tem for them to be­come le­gal res­i­dents?” Just 19 per­cent said de­port as many as pos­si­ble, while 77 per­cent said set up a sys­tem to be­come le­gal res­i­dents.

That 19 per­cent is the low­est point — so far — in a de­cline that has been go­ing on for sev­eral years. When Fox asked the same ques­tion in 2010, 45 per­cent said de­port as many as pos­si­ble. Last year, in July 2015, 30 per­cent gave that an­swer. That fell to 27 per­cent in Jan­uary of this year, and 19 per­cent now.

Seventy-five per­cent of men fa­vor a sys­tem for il­le­gal im­mi­grants to be­come le­gal res­i­dents, as do 79 per­cent of women. Seventy-four per­cent of whites and 87 per­cent of non-whites agree.

Then Fox asked specif­i­cally about Trump: “If Don­ald Trump were to soften his po­si­tion on han­dling il­le­gal im­mi­grants liv­ing in the United States, would you be more or less likely to vote for him?”

Here’s the in­ter­est­ing thing. Among peo­ple who don’t sup­port Trump, 27 per­cent said a soft­en­ing would make them more likely to sup­port him. Thirty-four per­cent said it would make them less likely-- that is prob­a­bly the group that would not like any­thing Trump did. (Thirty-six per­cent said it wouldn’t mat­ter.)

The poll sug­gests that Trump could loosen up a lit­tle and help him­self with his own vot­ers, as well as the more mod­er­ate vot­ers he’s hop­ing to at­tract.

Forty-one per­cent of men said a soft­en­ing would make them more likely to vote for Trump, as did 31 per­cent of women. Thir­tyeight per­cent of whites said the same thing, as well as 29 per­cent of non-whites. (Again the lower num­bers for women and non­whites are prob­a­bly due to the fact that rel­a­tively fewer of them would sup­port Trump un­der any cir­cum­stances.)

Forty-five per­cent of vot­ers un­der the age of 35 said a soft­en­ing would make them more likely to sup­port Trump, as well as 39 per­cent of vot­ers age 35 to 54. Fortythree per­cent of evan­gel­i­cals would also wel­come a soft­en­ing.

So that’s why Trump is pledg­ing a soft­en­ing, even if he hasn’t made it per­fectly clear. It’s what a lot of vot­ers want to see.

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