Digital marketing firm, A2P commissioned and oversaw polling of 901 likely midterm election voters in Arizona on their attitudes and opinions about immigration and the border. 469 likely Republican Primary voters were polled as well as 432 likely general election voters.
Alongside the polling, A2P commissioned two concurrent, in-depth, focus groups on the border to further drill down on public opinion.
This research is used by A2P to develop an edge in digital marketing by using data driven microtargeting, messaging, and creative design. A2P is conducting similar issue driven research throughout 2022 with the goal of giving digital marketing clients world class political intelligence and campaign effectiveness.
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Perception of border security and immigration by the public
Border security and immigration lead the pack among Arizona general election voters, with 32% placing it as one of their top 2 issues.
Among GOP Primary voters, 64% placed border security and immigration as one of their top 2 issues, which was followed by inflation and the cost of living (29%) and the election integrity & voter fraud (18%). The breakdown between Trump Republicans and Traditional Republicans, though, was quite stark: 54% of Traditional Republicans placed border security and immigration as one of their top 2 issues (still the leading issue for them) compared to 72% of Trump Republicans.
The split between Republicans is drawn by asking registered Republicans “Would you consider yourself to be more of a Trump Republican or more of a traditional Republican?” 45% said they were “Much more a Trump Republican”, 25% said they were “Somewhat more a Trump Republican,” making the sample a total of 70% Trump Republicans.
This is compared to 10% who said they were “Much more a traditional Republican” and 16% saying they were “Somewhat more a traditional Republican”.
Voters broadly disapprove of President Biden’s handling of immigration and border security. 91% of GOP Primary voters, 99% of Trump Republicans, and 75% of Traditional Republicans believe that Biden and the Democrats are “handling immigration and border security” worse than President Trump and the Republican Party.
The only category which gives Biden net approval for his handling of the border and immigration are Democrats, with a net of +66 points. Only 37% of the general electorate believes that Biden and the Democrats have handled these issues better than Trump and the Republicans.
Immigration is a salient issue for all Arizonans, regardless of political affiliation. Republicans across the board believe that immigration is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” issue for Arizona right now, with 97% of GOP Primary voters and registered Republican voters holding this belief. Even 53% of Democrats concur, but far more Democrats believe that it is only “somewhat serious” compared to Republicans.
A slim majority -- 51% -- of Independents believe that illegal immigration is a “very serious issue” facing Arizona, with 66% believing that it is either “very serious” or “somewhat serious.”
Most Arizonan voters, including self-described Trump Republicans, underestimate how many illegal border crossings into the United States occur every month. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that approximately 165,000 illegal crossings took place in February 2022 -- the latest period on record. The number has hovered between 150,000 and 200,000 for the last several months.
13% of GOP Primary voters, 13% of Trump Republicans, 10% of Traditional Republicans, and 6% of the general electorate correctly identified that between 150,000 and 200,000 illegal border crossings are occurring monthly. Among Democrats, the figure is only 2%.
GOP Primary voters are also far more confident about their predictions -- with only 10% saying they are unsure -- while 38% of Democrats profess ignorance.
On this issue, Republicans are living slightly more in reality than Democrats, however, Arizonans of all political persuasions do not fully understand the scale of illegal border crossings.
Attitudes on border security and immigration
Data from two focus groups that were commissioned by A2 Partners -- one made up of likely to vote “Trump Republicans” and another of likely to vote “Traditional Republicans” -- reiterates that immigration and the border are top-of-mind for Republican voters.
Among Trump Republicans, 7 out of 8 participants wrote down illegal immigration or the border as the “main issue” that will determine how they vote in the upcoming 2022 Republican primary. 7 out of 8 Traditional Republicans wrote down the same.
The importance of the border issue touches on fundamental differences of opinion surrounding what it means to be American, as is discussed below, but it also rests on a view that illegal migration is morally unfair and deprives natural born citizens of resources. For most of these Republican voters, the issue of immigration is a personal one.
· “We had hotels that the government were paying for illegals to stay in, more service than those who are homeless.” - Traditional Republican, 57, female, homemaker
· “We can’t get social security and we’re American citizens.” - Trump Republican, 68, female, self-employed
· “Taxpayers having to support illegals… main thing is taxpayers having to support illegals.” - Trump Republican, 54, male, painting contractor
The focus groups sent a clear message. The number of people coming through the Border is not the thing that scares people – nor were concerns about displacement mentioned. What really concerns people is a feeling that illegal immigrants can skip the line and get help and limited resources from the state that they are not able to access themselves.
For these voters, it feels unfair that they pay their taxes and work hard, and they don’t get rewarded, but those that come in illegally seem to go straight to the front of the line for help- even having preference over veterans. This is deeply emotionally, with people telling their own stories of how it is having an impact on them and is also linked to a strong sympathy for veterans and the homeless.
· “Cost, it costs not just dollars but safety and our way of living, everything comes back to something we have to sacrifice” Traditional Republican, 58, female, sales manager
· “My brother is a veteran and has to wait to get medical care whereas the illegals don’t have to wait for a doctor’s appointment.” Trump Republican, 70, female, retired
· “Humanizing these issues include seeing thousands of veterans on our streets, there are sob stories for everyone.” – Trump Republican, 48, male, sales
· “My grandparents escaped Hitler, came here legally and did not get welfare, healthcare or anything. They had to prove that they would not be a burden on this country. My tax dollars are being used for illegals, then you have veterans being hopeless and they’re not getting that tax dollars or Medicare because some illegal decided it would be better in the United States.” – Trump Republican, 55, male, business owner
It is more effective to frame the issue like this – in personal examples and in terms of their values and fairness – than using statistics about the number of crossings or crime. Speaking like this forges an emotional connection with the voter and allows candidates to distinguish themselves on the issue.
Differing partisan views on immigration hinge on a more fundamental difference regarding what kind of nation voters believe that the United States is. 77% of Republican voters believe that America is a country with “an essential American culture” which immigrants ought to assimilate into. 77% of Democratic voters believe that America is a country that is made up of “many cultures and values” that change depending on the arrival of new people to the United States.
Independents and the general electorate are split on this issue, though they do lean slightly towards the notion that the United States is a country with an essential culture that immigrants should be expected to assimilate into.
Arizona voters consistently disapprove of family separation, which became a hot topic in the waning years of the Trump Administration. Only one category of voters -- Trump Republicans -- hold a narrow net positive view of separating undocumented immigrant parents from their children when they cross the border illegally.
Notably, 68% of independents and 67% of the general electorate do not support family separation, and prefer law enforcement keeps immigrant families together, “even if it requires more state or federal resources.”
Both focus groups were largely in agreement that families need to be kept together, though Trump Republicans mentioned that they had concerns that entering as groups that appear to be families may just be a tactic to get into the country.
· “I think that’s basic humanity. Nothing is gained by separating.” Trump Republican, 48, male, sales
· “Keep them together because no one seems to know where the kids went. Keep families together… if they are actually families!”, Trump Republican, 50, female, paralegal
When it comes to conditions for detained illegal immigrants, there is a split among right- and left-leaning voters. Republicans believe that the conditions of detained illegal immigrants are a secondary concern to other “more important” considerations like “funding law enforcement and the border wall.” Traditional Republicans are much less firm in this commitment than their Trump Republican counterparts, coming in at 53% compared to 76%.
51% of independents favor prioritizing “safe and sanitary” conditions for illegal immigrants in custody. 81% of Democrats concur. The general electorate is largely in favor of maintaining good conditions for migrants in custody, with 53% holding that view.
This attitude can be seen in the focus groups when asking Trump Republicans if they would be in favor of bringing back Arizona’s infamous open-air jail, “tent city” to detain illegal immigrants- a policy that has been suggested by Gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon. When asked, the Trump Republican group erupted in cheers and claps.
· “Sherriff Joe had a good idea with the tent city. You’re a frickin’ criminal. So what!”, Trump Republican, 65, male, retired
However, there was less enthusiasm in the “traditional Republican group with most simply stating “Yes” and one saying:
· “We are already paying for them and we have the potential to separate them that way, but we just need to march them back, quickly.” – Traditional Republican, 61, female, reservations manager
The Trump Administration’s “Stay-in-Mexico” policy, which stipulated that asylum seekers must stay in their country-of-origin or elsewhere outside the U.S. while their asylum claim is being processed, polled well among Republicans, and maintained net favorability among the general electorate.
72% of Democrats preferred that asylum-seekers be given refuge in the United States while their claims are processed, as well as 44% of independents (compared to 40% whom concurred with the Stay-in-Mexico policy).
Republicans in focus groups were unanimous in making immigrants stay outside the U.S. until their asylum were processed, even pointing out that they felt the phrasing of the question was biased.
· “What about their safety? No, What about our safety?” – Trump Republican, 48, male, technician
Public opinion on immigration policy
When asked whether the state of Arizona should “bypass Federal laws and use state law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants on state trespassing charges, detain them in Arizona jails, and deport them,” every category of Arizona voters except for Democrats agreed. The proposal has net +76 support among GOP Primary voters, +14 support among the general electorate, and +17 among independents.
This sentiment among most voters may reflect a lack of faith in the federal government’s ability to properly handle border security and immigration, further cemented by the general electorate’s disapproval of the Biden Administration’s handling of the issue.
Zeal for border security and immigration reform waned slightly when the issue of limited resources came into focus. When asked whether they would be willing to reallocate funds from items such as education and infrastructure to fund the construction of a southern border wall and/or the deployment of further law enforcement to secure the border, Republicans stood firm, but Democrats, independents, and the general electorate disapproved.
Constructing a border wall and deploying more law enforcement and National Guardsmen to the southern border remain salient among GOP Primary voters. The reallocation of funds to finish construction of a border wall saw stronger support from the Republican base than the option to reallocate those funds to law enforcement and the National Guard.
Finishing the border wall is a top issue among Trump Republicans, with focus group attendees expressing an intense enthusiasm for the subject.
· “Hell yes, I’ll go down there and help construct it” - Trump Republican, 55, male, business owner
· “Every country in the world has a wall why the hell can’t we” - Trump Republican, 65, male, retired
Creating a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants that have lived in the United States for 5+ years and who “meet certain requirements” is largely popular among Arizona voters. Only one category of voters disapproves of this policy on net -- Trump Republicans -- and even then, it is only a net of -1 point.
70% of the general electorate agreed with such an overhaul of the American immigration system, as did 66% of independents. Even 63% of Traditional Republicans were supportive of the proposal.
Focus group Republicans largely mirrored this opinion, expressing more interest in immigrants “earning” citizenship than simply being given it for being brought to US as a child.
· “I have no problems with them staying as long as they follow the American system. They’re here let’s work it out”, - Traditional Republican, 58, female, sales manager
· “They should be allowed to stay by paying fees working public sector, passing the citizenship tests”, Traditional Republican, 67, female, retired
When discussing the “DREAM Act” -- a proposal to give illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children a route to citizenship -- Republicans were insistent on a tough and robust legal route and felt that it would be unfair to hand citizenship over to people for simply being brought here as children- though they admit the issue is extremely complicated and they seemed to be able to be convinced either way.
· “I think they need to go through the legalization process the same way as someone from England would want to become a citizen, pass the tests etc., not just hand a card over because your mother brought you when you were 2,” - Traditional Republican, 67, female, retired
· “If Kari Lake says all dreamers become US Citizens then that’s a dealbreaker, but if you have a green card where you go through the process of legal immigration I would consider it”, - Trump Republican, 55, male, business owner
The handling of DACA is a divisive one inside the Republican electorate, and a topic with staying away from in a Primary as the general electorate and independents are largely in favor of creating a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers”.
The focus groups also derived some valuable insights that go beyond the polling. In addition to Arizona Republican voters seeing immigration and the border as an issue of fairness, they were very supportive of legal immigrants. “Higher rates of legal immigration are already happening and no one has an issue with that,” said one Trump Republican (what is interesting here is his presupposition that “no one has an issue with that” -- statistics show that legal migration to the United States is actually on the decline).
When it comes to how the issues are conveyed by candidates, focus group participants preferred messaging that was:
· Direct and to-the-point.
· Coming from an “anti-politician”/outsider.
· Structured as a simple plan with several clear steps.
· Delivered in ads that are “natural” and include the candidate present at the southern border (not just stock footage).
· Indicative of the delivering candidate being a “fighter” who “gets things done.”
This data suggests several key points surrounding Arizona voters’ view of border and immigration issues, particularly as they consider how they might vote in the coming August 2nd primary, and November 8 general election.
· Immigration and border issues are top-of-mind for Arizona voters of all political affiliations, but particularly Republicans and independents.
· Arizona Republicans principally see the border and immigration as issues of fairness, grounded in emotional concerns.
· Republicans prefer a “tougher” stance on immigration and border security that includes a “Stay-in-Mexico” asylum policy, the deprioritization of humane conditions for detained immigrants, the construction of a border wall along the southern border, and the further deployment of law enforcement and National Guardsmen to secure the southern border.
· Most voters currently underestimate the number of illegal border crossings taking place every month.
· Biden and the Democrats face fallout from the current perceived crisis at the southern border; Trump and the Republicans stand to benefit.
· Republicans are willing to divert resources from infrastructure and other public goods to secure the southern border; independents and the general electorate are generally not.
· Republican candidates that can market themselves as “anti-politicians” who are willing to buck the federal and government and do “what needs to be done” will triumph.
· Immigration is the crowning issue of this election cycle.
Polling & Analytics, Alloy Analytics
Partner, JL Partners
Partner, JL Partners