Friday, December 09 2016
Democracy Corps’ new “Republican Party Project” survey of the GOP’s potential coalition exposes the very new dynamics created by Donald Trump and the 2016 election. Pay close attention because there are risks and opportunities all around.
This group of Republican base voters and Trump voters was forged by their disdain for Hillary Clinton, desire to repeal and replace Obamacare, more socially conservative views, and belief that Donald Trump has good plans to grow the economy and create jobs. But this coalition is full of potential fractures. First, 10 percent of Republicans did not vote for him against Clinton. This group is comprised heavily of moderates and college graduates who are more pro-trade – and probably aren’t being won back. Second, there is group of independents and Democrats of comparable size who voted for Trump in the end, but who share few of his values and priorities.
It is a real possibility that Donald Trump’s visible battle with American companies on behalf of American workers will shake things up and get him an audience beyond the 46 percent who voted for him in November’s election. We will know pretty soon.
In the meantime, Trump is pursuing a strategy that may re-enforce the disdain of moderates and college graduates who dominate the group that did not vote for him. He has doubled down on energizing the Republican Trump voters—and they like what they see. Will they be mobilized to defend him or will they become disillusioned on some issue? And the non-Republican Trump voters, you shall see, are a profoundly different lot with a different world view and real potential to pull back, especially from Republicans in the mid-terms.
Fake news will be a real part of the equation impacting how these voters react to events. Republican base voters dislike the elite press and Trump voters of all stripes believe facts rooted in fake news and promoted by Trump. They believe that Trump won in an Electoral College landslide and that millions of illegal immigrants gave Hillary her national popular vote majority. GOP defectors and moderates are the most skeptical of Trump’s facts.
This one-of-a-kind Republican Party Project survey examined the potential coalition of Republican base voters (those who identify as Republican or vote in Republican primaries) and those who voted for Donald Trump.
The President-elect alienated 14 percent of this coalition with his divisive campaign, unique brand of economic nationalism, and apparent self-dealing. The GOP defectors are deeply worried that Donald Trump will be too authoritarian and use his office to provide a platform for extreme social ideas and to enrich himself. They are the most concerned by reports that Trump is appointing the swamp instead of draining it and that he conducting business with foreign countries while president-elect. These voters broke with Trump, but Republicans in Congress will find themselves challenged if they don’t bring them back into the fold in 2018.
Donald Trump was elected in spite of these defectors by bringing over at the end an equal number of voters who are independents or Democrats. When you see their priorities, it is clear why they voted against Clinton and for Trump. They might stay in this coalition if Trump delivers on his promises on American jobs. But they also favor government health care, want entitlements protected and aid for the vulnerable, are pro-union and are very suspicious of CEOs and Wall Street and will be watching how Trump works with Republicans in Congress carefully.
It cannot be emphasized enough how different the non-GOP Trump voter is at the core. They are working people and on the edge financially. The great majority of GOP base and Trump voters identify as middle class, but a 54 percent majority of these non-GOP Trump voters say they are working class. Half say they could not handle an unexpected $500 expense, compared to just a quarter of Republican base voters. They are desperate for economic relief and turned to Donald Trump because he railed against the corporate elite and promised to end out-sourcing and restore American manufacturing, invest in infrastructure, cut taxes for the middle class and not touch entitlements.
Non-GOP Trump voters are fish out of water in this new potential Republican coalition. They do not trust the Republican Party (only 31 percent have favorable views) and do not subscribe to the conservative orthodoxy on:
Unions (57 percent have favorable views of unions),
Regulations (63 percent say a free market needs regulation to serve the public interest),
Taxes (79 percent say people making over $250,000 should pay a lot more in taxes), and
The safety net (59 percent say it’s the responsibility of government to take care of people like themselves and 57 percent have favorable views of unemployment benefits).
While four-in-ten consistently expresses anxiety about Trump’s “self-dealing and looking out for himself” and says he “operates for his own personal interest, not in the national interest,” they held their noses and voted for Trump because he offered a different economic vision.
These non-GOP Trump voters are prepared to turn against Trump if he does not produce middle class tax cuts, protect Medicare and Social Security, and restore American jobs.
Two of their top three greatest fears about the Trump Presidency are that he will break his campaign promises on these issues. They fear he will privatize Medicare and Social Security and will pass more trickle-down tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations instead of the middle class.
In fact, if the Republican leadership pursues an agenda focused on ‘entitlement reform’ and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy – as Paul Ryan supports and they appear to be considering – it will be against the wishes of more than just the non-GOP Trump voters. All Trump voters and the GOP base list these among their top concerns about the new administration and the GOP defectors react strongly to an attack on Trump for appointments that support privatizing Medicare and Social Security.
Similarly, an attack on Trump that connects his campaign promises on tax cuts for the middle class with his plans that disproportionately benefit the richest, including a massive break for his family, is concerning across the coalition and potentially fracturing. This is a strong attack for a number of reasons: it reinforces one of the greatest fears about Trump that he will cut taxes for the wealthy but not for ordinary Americans, it plays to the non-GOP Trump voters’ strong belief that the wealthy should pay more in taxes, and it reinforces a concern that a sizeable minority share with the GOP defectors about Trump’s self-dealing and implies it comes at their expense.
When it comes to attacks on Trump for self-dealing and having too many elite business people in his government, the results of this survey leave us skeptical that these voters will hold Trump accountable. To begin with, 4-in-10 non-GOP Trump voters already see him as a self-dealer and corrupt, and that did not matter on Election Day. Second, they doubt the veracity of reports that Trump has stocked his cabinet with a record number of lobbyists, Wall Street insiders and billionaires. Third, within each faction of the Republican Coalition, 6-in-10 prefer appointments with experience at the institutions they will regulate to those who do not have ties to Wall Street or those financial institutions.
Finally, it is important to understand that fake news is part of this election and its aftermath. For the moment, Trump’s voters of all kinds mostly accept his version of reality: that he won in an Electoral College landslide and millions of undocumented immigrants voted to give Clinton her lead in the national popular vote.
The sizeable majority of Trump voters who said this was true indicate these voters are still using available information to buttress his mandate and hold on to their vote for Trump. Do not assume their faith in him is readily eroded in the short-term, especially with Trump’s willingness to battle corporate America.
At the same time, the GOP defectors have not been impressed with Trump’s rendering of the news and facts. They have mostly accepted information that reinforces their doubts about Trump and rejected information that supports their vote against him.
That will be part of the filter as voters interpret Donald Trump in the months ahead. Trump will try to show that he really is a fighter for American jobs and the middle class against disloyal companies, while overseeing an administration that is shifting the balance dramatically towards the richest and big business and toying with dramatic changes to the welfare state.
That is the new game we are all now joining and seeking to impact it.
 National Web-Survey of 800 2016 Trump Voters and GOP Base Voters. This web-survey took place December 2-5, 2016 among 800 2016 Data shown in this deck is among 2016 voters who voted for Trump or non-Trump voters who identify as Republicans or independents who lean Republican and vote in Republican primaries or caucuses. Margin of error for the full sample is +/-3.47 percentage points at 95% confidence. Margin of error will be higher among subgroups.
Tuesday, May 17 2016
We are witnessing the crash of the Republican Party as we know it, and progressives should dramatically change their strategy to maximize conservative losses and move the stalled progressive reform agenda in the election’s aftermath.
Rightfully shaken by off-year losses, low base turnout and Trump’s appeal to some union members, progressive strategy has been cramped by worst-case assumptions and by the goal of stopping the GOP from expanding their Electoral College map.
That caution risks missing the opportunity to magnify GOP losses, expand the Democratic map and targets, shift control of states and legislatures, break the gridlock and create momentum for reform. A change in strategy increases the likelihood that parts of the progressive agenda can move, or even pass, in the first months of a new Democratic administration and new Congress. It increases the chance progressive reforms can move further in the cities and states.
The Republican Party is being shattered by a three-front civil war against the GOP establishment and that in-fighting will profoundly impact how people vote for president and all the way down the ballot:
First, Donald Trump and his Tea-Party and working class supporters joined an all-out war with a GOP establishment that failed to stop President Obama from changing America. His brazen nationalist economic appeal includes attacks on immigrants, bad trade deals and disloyal American corporations; he promises to fight for American jobs, to take care of American workers first, and to make America great again. He is the skunk at the garden party with his overt racism and hostility to immigrants and Muslims. But GOP base voters are race-conscious and anti-immigrant, as they have made clear at the state level since Pete Wilson in 1994. They say they want a nominee who will fight against the growing immigrant diversity in the country. Donald Trump has captured the base’s anger with GOP leaders who’ve failed to slow illegal immigration and America’s growing multiculturalism.
Second, Ted Cruz and the Republican Party’s religious conservatives fought a war with a GOP establishment that failed to slow President Obama’s liberal social agenda. The Evangelical and religiously observant base of the party was stunned by the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage. They want their leaders to defend traditional marriage, make abortion illegal in the states, and deny protections to the LGBTQ community. It is on abortion where the GOP-controlled states have pressed the furthest against the national consensus. That is why Ted Cruz emerged as the 2nd strongest candidate and the only other candidate who could have plausibly been nominated by this Republican Party.
Third and just as important, moderate Republicans are deeply alienated from a GOP establishment that views them as illegitimate. This third front in the civil war has not been covered by the media, in part because no GOP candidate has been willing to seek their votes on the issues that matter to them. None of the pundits have speculated that the silence on their agenda has anything to do with the primary or what will happen in the election ahead. The moderates are a stunning 31 percent of the party base, and they are heavily college-educated and socially liberal. They are conservatives on immigration, regulation, taxes and national security, but as a college-educated majority, they accept the science and urgency of addressing climate change. And most importantly, they are the one bloc that accepts the sexual revolution. That changes everything. Two-thirds say abortion should be legal in all or most cases and three-quarters say the party should accept gay marriage and move on.
They deeply resent being ignored and pretty dramatically refused to give their votes to the GOP establishment’s candidates – Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio – because they were extremists on abortion. That is why both candidates crashed and why some moderates supported Trump who allowed that Planned Parenthood does some worthwhile things. (See my piece, Republicans, beware: Moderates could help elect Clinton, in the Washington Post.)
This three front civil war has totally changed the strategic opportunities for progressives in the short-term campaign and in the election’s aftermath. Seizing them will increase the probability that the Democrats’ rapidly growing demographic hegemony will finally be realized electorally. It will increase the probability of an electoral earthquake and Democratic control of the White House, the Supreme Court and perhaps the Congress.
The fracturing of the Republican Party has created three new short-term opportunities to magnify the probability of an electoral earthquake in November:
New opportunity one: battle for the GOP moderates. In past elections, moderates have consolidated around the Republican candidate who shares their views on government spending, regulation, taxes and national security. But it is an open question what they will do if religious conservative Ted Cruz is the nominee or if Donald Trump carries his civil war against the establishment into the fall. Right now, Cruz and Trump are only running even with white college-educated men in a race against Clinton – an affluent group that gave Mitt Romney over 60 percent of their vote and a 25 point lead against Obama
In our poll of GOP base voters, 10 percent of moderates say they will vote for Clinton against Trump and 30 percent say their vote is uncertain. For perspective, only 6 percent of Republicans voted for Obama in 2012.
While the GOP establishment ignores these voters, progressives need to recognize and identify with their quandaries and convince them to support Democrats this time. These college-educated base voters are pro-choice and accept marriage equality; they believe climate change is real and requires urgent action. In our survey of GOP base voters, they responded to a Democratic candidate’s messages on national investment, bank regulation and corporate governance, and getting beyond the social issues to address the nation’s problems.
Democrats need an opportunistic strategy to make sure these moderates get heard and split off in this election and more important yet, allow some elected Republicans after the election to support changes newly on the table.
New opportunity two: building registration and turnout with voters who now know the stakes. Our new poll on behalf of WVWVAF shows a 10-point surge in the highest measure of voter interest among Democrats, key parts of the Rising American Electorate (specifically, the unmarried women and minorities), and college-educated women, a key part of the Democratic coalition. Our focus groups for the Roosevelt Institute and WVWVAF showed us that millennials and unmarried women are closely following the GOP primary battles, the GOP’s hatred of Obama and Donald Trump’s xenophobia and sexism. They now understand the stakes like no time before.
I have listened to African American voters in focus groups, and they have come to believe everything their community has achieved is at now at stake. And Hispanics are rushing to get citizenship in order to vote in November. Millennials are suspicious of Clinton and in an anti-political mood, yet their interest is up too. They are offended by the racism and sexism and they too are ready to believe their values are at risk.
It is even more important to expand the scope of registration efforts and mobilize infrequent voters, but it is taking place at a moment of rising interest and growing clarity on the stakes. It dramatically changes what messages will prove motivating in 2016. And it raises the urgency of delivering some palpable changes after the election or risk a slide back into disengagement and cynicism.
New opportunity three: Joining the battle for the working class. Bernie Sanders has shown in the Democratic primary and Donald Trump in the Republican that working class voters will rally to a demand to “level the playing field.” They want to rein in the power of big money so it can no longer write the rules of the economy to favor CEOs and corporations and so government can work for the middle class and working families again. Our polling for WVWVAF and the Roosevelt Institute shows it is just that kind of message that engages the financially-pressed white unmarried women, millennials, and the white working class, particularly the women.
Trump’s chauvinism and hostility to America’s diversity has cost him electorally and led to the early consolidation of the Rising American Electorate. But the primaries also show we have a new opportunity to achieve an earthquake election and win strongly among both the RAE, and the working class (where Democrats have lagged) if they strategize to win the big economic argument. As progressives rally around Hillary Clinton in the general, it is critical they unify around a narrative that allows them to dominate on the economy, reform and trade in order to grow her working class vote.
If progressives make this strategic turn – exploit this three-front GOP civil war and rise to these new opportunities – the election will indeed prove shattering for the Republicans. This is not like the aftermath of 2008 and 2012, where the GOP quickly united and dug in to stop President Obama. The civil war will only grow more intense in the aftermath, and some GOP leaders and elected officials will support policies unthinkable only a short time ago. It only takes a handful, as we saw with the handful of Democrats who supported the Reagan tax cuts after his win. The GOP’s business allies may demand acceptance of immigration reform and gay marriage and serious investment in infrastructure investment and R&D.
With Democrats likely to control the U.S. Senate and with Republicans perhaps just holding a small majority in the House, Republican members from blue states and swing districts will want to show their willingness to support change in some areas.
These are some of the initiatives that could be on the agenda for action soon after the election, and that ought to be part of progressive planning:
Comprehensive immigration reform. With a deepening reaction against the GOP’s immigration policies among the Hispanic community and business elites, passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill will be the most obvious and effective antidote. Republican leaders, the business community and savvy Republicans know this must happen fast in the aftermath on the election.
Paycheck fairness and equal pay for women. Clinton has made this her highest priority and this law came within two votes of passing the Senate in the past. With Trump and Cruz almost certainly pushing away women voters, many Republican members will want to cast this distinguishing vote.
Raise the minimum wage to $12.00 an hour. No action would translate so quickly into income gains, and many Republican members will be conscious of how readily red-state voters supported raising the minimum wage when given the chance in referenda.
Full and immediate disclosure of secret campaign contributions legalized by Citizens United. Republicans used to support disclosure, and they may be under pressure to do something about the corrupt system of financing campaigns. Transparency is only a small step, but it may be empowering for voters and activists to see that reformers can win.
Student loan debt relief. If Republicans are wiped out among millennials, there could be Republican support for major steps to relieve or cap student debt, following the example of some employers who are matching student debt payments. As with money and politics, these immediate steps should foreshadow policies that tie student debt to future income.
Child tax credit. PaulRyan and Marco Rubio and the conservative ‘reformicons’ have talked about expanding the child tax credit. An expanded tax credit for younger children could attract Republican support.
Infrastructure Bank.Trump andClinton have stressed the need for major infrastructure investment and Clinton backs an infrastructure bank that has been strongly supported by the Chamber of Commerce and labor. Since a bank leverages private funds and operates independently form Congress, it gives Republicans an opening for supporting much greater public investment.
Congressional endorsement of the EPA’s proposed regulations on the future of coal-fired power plants. Big policy changes on renewables or a carbon tax will have to wait until the new administration, but starting with a national consensus on moving away from coal is not unimportant.
Pass ENDA, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. It prohibits job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the GOP candidates ought to be pressed on where they stand.
I am not talking here about the broader set of actions a new Clinton Administration will offer to the country. The focus here is on the shattered Republican Party and what are the prospects for moving the reform agenda in the election’s aftermath and what should be done now to elevate these possibilities.
Hopefully, this urgent note will begin the discussions.
Friday, May 13 2016
Moderate Republicans will have the last word in this dramatic presidential election year. The GOP establishment and its favored candidates view these voters as illegitimate, which is why they lost the primaries to Donald Trump. Now moderates are poised to play similarly decisive roles in the general election — by helping to elect Democrat Hillary Clinton — and in the battle for the party’s future that will follow it.
Moderates stand out starkly among the groups that make up the Republican base, for two reasons: They are disproportionately college graduates in a white, working-class party, and they are socially liberal. They have been alienated from a party that won’t accept the revolution that has occurred in American social and sexual mores and move on.
Because no candidate this cycle spoke to their issues and grievances, these voters can seem invisible. But according to polling we conducted at Democracy Corps in February, moderates make up a stunning 31 percent of the GOP base. Commentators on the ongoing GOP train wreck pay a lot of attention to the tea party, white working-class voters and rural evangelical Christians, but how much have you heard about the alienation of the moderate third of the party?
Everyone should be much more curious about why these voters did not rally to former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) or Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Well, two-thirds of GOP moderates believe abortion should be legal in “all” or “most cases,” whereas Bush, Rubio and Kasich — labeled “moderate” in the media — are firmly pro-life, differing only on the kinds of exceptions they would allow. That’s a defining issue for many moderate Republicans and helps to explain why many voted for Trump, who stood out from the pack when he allowed that Planned Parenthood “does a lot of good.”
This is not to say that moderates have nothing in common with the rest of the Republican base. They are fiscally conservative, distrust regulation, and want lower taxes and a strong military. They would repeal Obamacare, and they want the government to get control of immigration.
But unlike much of their GOP peers, they have accepted the sexual revolution. According to our poll, nearly 90 percent say that their party should stop fighting the fact that “women and men feel free to have sex without any interest in getting married,” and half believe this strongly. Three-quarters say the party should accept legal same-sex marriage, even as an identical bloc of evangelicals and observant Catholics wants the party to fight it. And in another key area of separation, almost two-thirds accept that “scientists say 2015 was the hottest year in historical record” and “that human activity is a significant factor in climate change.” Moderates want to see the country, and their own party, make progress on equal pay for women, climate change, financial reform and long-term investment in infrastructure.
That is why GOP moderates are about to abandon their party’s nominee in large numbers, helping to elect Clinton. Our polling found that just 60 percent of GOP moderates said they would vote for Trump in a matchup with Clinton. Only 10 percent were ready to vote for Clinton, but fully 30 percent said they would vote for some other person, wouldn’t vote or weren’t sure what to do. Only 6 percent of Republicans voted for Barack Obama in 2012.
Ultimately, Clinton’s muscular views on national security, which position her to the right of Trump, may persuade some of these voters to listen to her on other issues. According to my survey, GOP moderates are moved by Clinton’s message that social changes accepted in much of the country should be set aside so we can begin “addressing our country’s problems.” Although Trump sent mixed signals about Planned Parenthood, he insists that he is pro-life and that those performing abortions should face consequences; he is frequently forced to defend comments that seem disrespectful to women who are key players and interpreters of our liberalizing United States. That allows nearly half of GOP moderates to respond positively to Clinton’s plans to invest in infrastructure to strengthen the country, to reform corporations so they no longer chase short-term profits and to help the modern working family with issues such as equal pay for women.
The Republican Party is approaching a crossroads. After the Democratic Party lost a shattering election in 1984, the civil war it went through raised new issues, brought in new voters and elected the New Democrat Bill Clinton two presidential elections later. Will the Republican Party likewise come to terms with the sexual revolution, marriage equality and climate change in the aftermath of the 2016 election? Republican leaders will be making a mistake — again — if they fail to ask: “Why did so many of our voters help elect Hillary Clinton?”
Monday, February 29 2016
When you see the results of this survey, you will believe that either Donald Trump has an amazing antenna for the mood of the party or a great pollster. And you will also believe this explosive civil war inside the GOP can move significant numbers of voters out of the Republican camp – and this poll starts to show how.
As the Republican Party grapples with a fateful decision about its nominee for president, this new Democracy Corps survey of Republican voters shows they are headed towards a train-wreck that will change our politics. That may seem like hyperbole, but this one of kind survey is an eye opening glimpse into what is really happening inside one of our major national parties. The animated animus for Democratic governance and fear of the country’s growing immigrant and racial diversity truly unify the Republican Party and have allowed Donald Trump to surge ahead of the field. But there are deep fissures inside the base as well and the GOP is poised to crack wide open.
Moderates form 31 percent of the Republican Party base, and they are solidly pro-choice on abortion and hostile to pro-life groups. About one in five are poised to defect from the party. The party is divided down the middle on gay marriage, climate change, and the N.R.A.
With the GOP’s battles alienating large swaths of the country and an internal civil war in full swing, this campaign is full of opportunity for progressives.
This likely voter survey of 800 Republican base voters was conducted online using a voter file sample. The results were weighted to match Democracy Corps’ national likely voter data set for self-identifying Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who will vote in the Republican primaries or caucuses. That includes questions such as religion, church attendance, ideology, strength of party identification, Tea Party support, education and age. Our assertions that Moderates are 31 percent of the Republican base and that the party is split down the middle between a Tea Party-Evangelical bloc and a Moderate-Observant Catholic bloc are based on our last three national surveys of likely voters. In short, you can trust that this is real.
This survey of Republicans looks eerily like Trump’s inside intelligence on Republican thinking, though at the same time, it shows how Democrats can take advantage of this moment.
The strongest attacks that we tested centered on his character and leadership qualities: that he is an ego-maniac at the expense of the country, that he is disrespectful towards women, and that he cannot be trusted to keep the country safe and handle our nuclear weapons.
The strongest Democratic messages that shift Tea Party, Observant Catholic, and Moderate voters away from the Republican nominee are ones focused on investment and modernizing America; on reforming corporate governance so growth works for middle class, not just the CEOs; and on getting beyond social issues to address America’s problems.
READ THE FULL MEMO
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this release included a finding that a majority of Republicans did not believe the reported fact that "net migration from Mexico has been zero or less since 2005, the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants in the U.S. has declined to 1.3 million since 2007." It is not the case that unauthorized Mexican immigration to the U.S. has declined to 1.3 million since 2007, and we intended to ask whether they believed it was true that the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants to the U.S. declined by 1.3 million since 2007. Accordingly, we have removed the flawed finding from this survey and apologize for any inconvenience.
Moderates (31 percent) consist of: (a) liberals/moderates who are neither observant Catholics, nor Tea Party supporters, nor very favorable towards the Tea Party, (b) conservatives who are neither Evangelical Republicans nor Observant Catholics and do not attend religious services more than once a week who are neither Tea Party supporters nor strongly favorable towards the Tea Party. Evangelicals (30 percent) consist of Evangelical Christians who are not Moderates (see above). Tea Party (17 percent) consist of strong Tea Party supporters or those very favorable towards the Tea Party who are: (a) not Moderates or Evangelicals (see above); (b) liberals/moderates who are not Evangelicals and are very favorable towards the Tea Party or somewhat strong Tea Party supporters. Observant Catholics (14 percent) consist of Observant Catholics or Catholics who attend services more than once and week who are not Moderate, Evangelical, or Tea Party (see above). Establishment (8 percent) consists of those who are not Moderate, Evangelical, Tea Party, or Observant Catholic (see above).
This national web-survey of 800 likely Republican voters was conducted by Democracy Corps & Greenberg Quinlan Rosner on February 11- 16, 2016 using a voter file sample. Likely voters were determined based on whether they voted in 2012 or registered since and stated intention of voting in 2016. Data is among those who identify as Republicans or independents who lean Republican and vote in Republican primaries or caucuses. Margin of error for the full sample is +/-3.47 percentage points at 95% confidence. The 5 categories of Republicans are mutually exclusive categories determined by respondents’ responses on ideology, religion, frequency of service attendance, strength of Tea Party support and favorability towards the Tea Party. To ensure that the web-survey accurately reflects the national Republican Party, the typologies were weighted to the average for each type from Democracy Corps’ last three national surveys.
Friday, November 21 2014
When President Obama took steps to legalize the status of 5 million undocumented immigrants, he brought out the real Republican Party, not the reasonable one Republican leaders put forward momentarily after the election. There is a reason the Republican Party has stopped immigration reform and is now suing the president. The Republican Party is the anti-immigrant party, as reflected in the strong views expressed by the party’s base about undocumented immigrants. Tea Party and Evangelical Republican base voters drive the intense majority opinion among the GOP on this issue, as Democracy Corps polling shows.
Three-quarters of the Tea Party and two-thirds of the Evangelical Republicans give a very cool response to “undocumented immigrants in the United States.” Together, these blocs constitute the intense majority at the heart of the GOP (54 percent of Republican identifiers) and they are about as hostile to undocumented immigrants as to Obamacare. Both issues draw on a fear that Democrats are using government to build dependency and political support.[i]
In focus groups, the Evangelical Republicans speak in graphic terms of being invaded and the failure to speak English drives them crazy.[ii]
Don’t come here and make me speak your language. Don’t fly your flag. You’re on American soil. You’re American. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)
You come to our country, you need to learn our language. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)
Why should I put—press 1 if I want to speak in English? You know, everything – every politically correct machine out there says, “Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Spanish.” (Evangelical man, Roanoke)
It is worth noting that the Moderates and Observant Catholics are less intense in their reaction to undocumented immigrants – only 54 percent of Moderates and 48 percent of Observant Catholics respond very coolly to the undocumented.
Likewise just one half of Independents and one quarter of Democrats give such a cool response to the undocumented.
In order to understand Tea Party and Evangelical Republicans’ response to undocumented immigrants and President Obama’s executive order on immigration, you must get inside the mind of the base they dominate. There is a fundamental belief among the GOP that they face uphill election battles against a Democratic Party that seeks to win a lasting majority by expanding government to increase dependency. It begins with food stamps and unemployment benefits, extends to the Affordable Care Act and expands further if you legalize undocumented immigrants.
For the Republican base, those policies are not just about Democratic political ideology or economic philosophy – they are part of an electoral strategy designed to stack the deck against the GOP.
The government’s giving in to a minority, to push an agenda, as far as getting the votes for the next time. (Evangelical man, Roanoke)
Obama got elected because he kept saying, ‘I’ll keep giving you unemployment forever.’ That’s why he got elected. Now you can live in this country without a green card. Come on, we’ll give you insurance, we’ll give you money. That’s why he got elected. (Tea Party woman, Roanoke)
That’s why they want all the illegal aliens legalized. (Evangelical men, Roanoke)
The more threatened the Republican base feels, the more ardently the Tea Party and Evangelical majority of the GOP will fight back.
Democracy Corps’ Republican Party Project tracks attitudes on immigration and other issues and how they play out within the key blocs in the Republican base. Hostility to undocumented immigrants and immigration reform are big hurdles at the heart of the Republican Party.
[i]Based on 6,054 interviews conducted for Democracy Corps, July 2013 – November, 2014.
[ii]This is based on findings from the first phase of research for Democracy Corps’ Republican Party Project. We conducted six focus groups among Republican partisans – divided into Evangelicals, Tea Party adherents, and Moderates – between July 30th and August 1st, 2013. All participants indicated that they voted only or mostly for Republican candidates and were screened on a battery of ideological and political indicators. The groups were conducted in Raleigh, North Carolina (Moderate and Tea Party), Roanoke, Virginia (Tea Party and Evangelical), and Colorado Springs, Colorado (Moderate and Evangelical).