On Tuesday, the Public Religion Research Institute published their findings on immigration. The results, particularly when it comes to younger GOP voters, may spell bad news for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who both take hard line stances on illegal immigration.
The results point to “substantial generational divisions among Republicans.” When asked whether “immigrants strengthen American society,” 51 percent of Republicans aged 18-29 agreed.
While a majority (68 percent) of both Republicans and Democrats in the 18-29 age range agreed with this statement, far fewer seniors (36 percent) said immigrants strengthen society and close to half (44 percent) of seniors view immigrants as a threat.
The survey noted that attitudes about immigration reform have “remained remarkably stable throughout 2015.” Sixty-two percent of American voters believe illegal immigrants should be allowed a path to citizenship if they meet certain requirements, and only 19 percent think illegal immigrants should be identified and deported. Among those 18-29, support for a path to citizenship increased to 69 percent.
Even a slight majority of Republican voters (52 percent) favor a path to citizenship. When it comes to young Republican voters, their view is more on par with the general American public, with 63 percent favoring a path to citizenship. Just 20 percent of young Republicans are in favor of identifying and deporting illegal immigrants, which Trump and Cruz support. Cruz has even hardened his stance on this over the primary season.
The Public Religion Research Institute’s chief executive, Robert P. Jones, suggested that Trump and Cruz would need to soften their stances on immigration to appeal to young Republican voters. As Jones told the New York Times, “a really hard line on immigration has the potential not just to fall flat but to push off younger Republicans.”
The numbers are more favorable for Trump and Cruz when it comes to older Republican voters. But, come November, if they wish to take advantage of Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity with younger voters, these immigration results may be significant.
The New York Times noted that the Public Religion Research Institute survey’s size and duration were “unusual;” 42,586 telephone interviews were conducted from April 29, 2015 to January 7, 2016. The margin of error is just plus or minus one point.