A Gallup poll from earlier this month found that Americans consider the government and immigration to be the most important problems facing the U.S. 23 percent of respondents named the government/poor leadership, while 21 percent named immigration.
Nothing else came close. Health care was a distant third at 7 percent, followed closely by race relations (6 percent) and (at 5 percent each) the economy, poverty-hunger-homelessness, and unifying the country.
“Government/poor leadership” covers a lot of territory. Those who cite this as their main concern might be conservatives who think government is too big and powerful or liberals who hate President Trump. Or they might be traditional “good government” Republicans and/or moderates.
By contrast the vast majority of those who cite immigration very likely think, at a minimum, that there’s too much illegal immigration. These folks, I assume, are predisposed to vote for Trump.
They may be disappointed that he hasn’t accomplished more to stem the tide of illegal immigration (e.g. by building the wall), but they likely understand that his lack of success is due mainly to resistance by Democrats and judges. And they surely understand that the Democratic nominee for president will, at best, be soft on illegal immigration and, at worst, effectively favor open borders.
Here, then, is the state of play: First, the policy issue of most concern to voters is excessive immigration, an issue that the president desperately wants to address and that the opposing party scarcely even acknowledges. Second, the state of the economy is of relatively little concern to Americans (or their concern centers on the economic challenges excessive immigration presents).
When the economy isn’t of much concern and the president has the upper hand on the most concerning policy issue, that’s a recipe for the incumbent’s re-election. At least it always has been.
American politics is changing and the times arguably are exceptional. Thus, it’s possible that this recipe won’t hold in 2020. It’s also possible that by the second half of 2020, Americans will be worrying as much or more about the economy as they are about immigration.
Nonetheless, the this Gallup poll represents good news for President Trump.