The Cable

Poll: Trump’s Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Trade Talk Isn’t Actually Very Popular

Trump's message plays well with his base but gains little traction with the broader electorate.


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric about immigration and the dangers of trade have resonated with his core supporters. A new poll released Thursday shows that message doesn’t have a whole lot of traction beyond them.  

According to the 2016 Chicago Council Survey, conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Trump has tapped into fears about immigration and the global economy that have lurked within Republican voters for decades to propel himself to the GOP presidential ticket. But it’s hardly a widespread sentiment.

Only 43 percent of Americans see immigration as a “critical threat” to the United States, while just less than half — 48 percent — favor expanding the border wall with Mexico. A majority of Americans — 58 percent — said that illegal immigrants working in the United States should be allowed to stay here and continue working.

What’s more, the poll found that there’s broad support for globalization. Sixty-five percent of Americans said that globalization is “mostly good” for the United States — including 59 percent of Republicans — while 60 percent back the Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal between the United States and 11 other Pacific nations that would encompass two-fifths of the world’s economic output. Both Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton have denounced the trade deal.

It also seems as if Trump’s isolationist message plays well only with his base — and even then is muddled. The poll determined that 89 percent of the American public believes existing alliances help achieve American foreign policy goals. Even 60 percent of core Trump supporters back maintaining or expanding U.S. commitments to NATO, which the candidate has repeatedly denigrated.

However, if Clinton is looking to change the minds of Trump supporters, the poll shows she’s likely out of luck. Eighty percent of Trump supporters believe immigration is a “critical threat” to the United States; a majority of Republicans have viewed it that way since 1998. Some 92 percent of his backers want the border wall with Mexico expanded. Only 9 percent of Trump supporters want to resettle Syrian refugees.

“Although the Trump campaign has been able to mobilize many of those who are most concerned about the effects of trade on our economy and jobs and about the changing demographics of the United States, these motivating concerns are not new, according to our polling,” Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, president of the Council on Global Affairs, said in a statement Thursday.

In other words, this tally shows what the campaign has had on full display: deep polarization of the American public, but along fault lines that have existed for quite a while. The good news for those who want to undergird the current state of affairs: those who want to tear those pillars down are in a distinct — and hard-to-grow — minority.

Photo credit: ETHAN MILLER/Getty Images

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