Trump could help his own cause by softening immigration stance
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.