Friday, February 17, 2017

The Democrats' Immigration Problem

From Thomas Edsall, at the New York Times:

Why is immigration such a problem for the Democratic Party?

The issue splits traditional Democratic constituencies. It pits groups with competing material interests against each other, but it also brings those with vested psychological interests into conflict as Hispanics, African-Americans, labor and liberal advocacy groups clash over their conception of territoriality, political ownership and cultural identity.

In the fall of 2015, as the presidential campaign began to heat up, Hillary Clinton broke with the Obama administration over its ongoing deportation of undocumented immigrants.

During an appearance on Telemundo on Oct. 5, Clinton told María Celeste Arrarás that Obama’s policies were too punitive:
I think we have to go back to being a much less harsh and aggressive enforcer. We need to, of course, take care of felons and violent people. I mean, that goes without saying. But I have met too many people in our country who were upright, productive people who maybe had some, you know, minor offense. Like, you know, maybe they were — arrested for speeding or they had some kind of — you know, one incident of drunk driving, something like that 25 years ago.
Clearly, Clinton’s attack on Obama’s relatively stringent deportation policy was devised to maximize Hispanic turnout in the 2016 election.

Did the strategy work? The evidence is mixed.

A comparison of national exit polls from 2008, 2012 and 2016 shows that Hispanic turnout grew slightly, from 9 percent of the total vote in 2008 to 10 percent in 2012 to 11 percent in 2016. But any gain that might have accrued to Clinton from the increase was eliminated by the fact that her margin of victory among Latinos, 66 percent, was 5 points below Obama’s haul in 2012.

In any analysis of the 2016 vote, it is difficult to separate the issues of immigration and free trade. In an October 2016 report, Pew found that Trump voters were decisively more hostile to both free trade agreements and immigration than the general public, and much more hostile than Clinton supporters.

A detailed analysis of exit polls in four key states that helped deliver the election to Donald Trump — Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — produced interesting findings not only about Hispanics, but also African-Americans — who are less supportive of liberal immigration policies than other core Democratic constituencies — and whites. In each of these states, opposition to immigration was higher than the national average.

Take Clinton’s performance in Florida. She should have benefited from the drop in the white share of the state’s electorate from 67 percent in 2012 to 62 percent in 2016. She did not, however, because her margin among whites, 32-64, fell significantly below that of Obama, 37-61. Black turnout grew modestly from 13 percent in 2012 to 14 percent in 2016, but Clinton’s margin among African Americans, 84-8, fell well below Obama’s, 99-1.

The same pattern held for Michigan, where the white share of the electorate fell from 77 percent in 2012 to 75 percent in 2016, but Clinton lost the white vote in Michigan by 21 points, 36-57, while Obama lost it by 11 points, 44-55.

The patterns are not the same in all the Trump states. In Pennsylvania, for example, the white vote, which went 56-40 for Trump over Clinton, increased from 78 percent in 2012 to 81 percent in 2016. This boosted Trump’s statewide totals so that he carried Pennsylvania by 68,236 votes out of 5.97 million cast. An additional factor in Clinton’s defeat there was a decline in black turnout from 13 percent of the electorate in 2012 to 10 percent in 2016.

Wisconsin stands out because there the racial and ethnic makeup of the electorate remained virtually the same from 2012 to 2016. The state shifted from blue to red for one reason: the swing among whites toward Trump. Trump won 53 percent of white Wisconsin voters to Clinton’s 42 percent, an 11-point margin, compared to the 3-point spread between Mitt Romney and Obama, 51-48...

Overall, public opinion on immigration — particularly the views of those opposed to immigration — played a crucial role in the outcome of the 2016 election. Among the 13 percent of voters who identified immigration as the most important issue, Trump won, 64-33.

This data demonstrates a key element in the politics of immigration...