Nearly a third, 32%, of Trump supporters say newcomers strengthen American society now, more than in 2016 when just 19% had a positive view of immigrants.
Alex Nowarasteh, director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, said that a combination of political and economic factors likely contributed to this shift in opinion.
“Low unemployment prior to COVID may have convinced some Republicans that immigrants are a net gain to the country,” Nowrasteh said. “Republicans may feel more secure when a president from their party is in charge, and the number of illegal immigrants coming into the country is at near-historic lows.”
Though Americans have opened up to immigrants and their potential contributions to society, immigration is a much less important issue to voters now than it was four years ago. In 2016, 70% of voters said immigration was a very important issue, while just 52% think it is very important now.
There is also evidence that the president’s priorities for a potential second term may be different. The Trump campaign last month released a list of 50 goals the president would pursue if reelected, and immigration was part of only six of them. That’s a far cry from 2016, when illegal immigration animated countless speeches, interviews, and tweets by then-candidate Trump.
The change in the president’s rhetoric on immigration may also be due to his attempt to court Hispanics, who make up nearly a third, 31%, of all immigrants arriving to the U.S. each year.
Polls show the president’s strategy may be working. Biden still holds a wide lead among Hispanic voters nationally, but a Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters last week found that Hispanics in the all-important swing state support Trump by a slim margin over Biden, 45% to 43%.