The politics of immigration have flipped the Republicans’ way

I have argued that the surge across our border of young illegal immigrants from Central America has flipped the immigration debate. Now, a Gallup poll shows that the politics of immigration have also flipped.

17 percent now say that immigration is the top problem the U.S. faces. A month ago, only 5 percent saw immigration as our number one problem. Immigration is now effectively tied with “dissatisfaction with government” as our leading problem in the mind of the American public.

Republicans are particularly concerned about immigration. 23 percent mention immigration (by which most surely mean the illegal variety) as our leading problem. Only 11 percent of Democrats see immigration (by which most presumably mean improving the status of illegal immigrants) in such a pressing light.

But here’s the most interesting part of the survey finding. After identifying what they consider the nation’s top problem, respondents were asked which party can better handle it. The result was an even split. 35 percent had more confidence in Republicans; 35 percent had more confidence in Democrats.

When put into historical perspective, this result is good news for Republicans:

[It] is similar to the Republicans’ positioning on this question in 2010, shortly before voters gave their party a sweeping victory in the midterm House elections. Republicans were also practically tied with Democrats in 1994 and 2002 — both years when the GOP fared well in the midterms. By contrast, in 2006, the Democrats held a record 15-percentage-point advantage on this measure and went on to retake control of both houses of Congress.

Heightened concern about immigration is also good news for Republicans:

While the 17% of Americans naming immigration as the top problem is not large in absolute terms, the fact that the issue is of particular concern to Republicans and older Americans — both groups that Republicans need to turn out in force in the midterms — could be critical to the outcome.

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