Immigration has emerged as the number one issue for voters in the midterm elections, surpassing both the economy and health care as the policy area that will most determine how votes are cast, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday.
The poll, conducted between June 28 and July 2, found that fifteen percent of registered voters named immigration as the issue that will most significantly impact how they cast their vote, while fourteen percent said the economy was their top priority.
Immigration first became a top issue for voters in May after the Trump administration rolled out its “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy, which mandated the criminal prosecution of everyone who crosses the border illegally, thereby prompting the separation of roughly 3,000 children from their parents.
The share of Republicans who said immigration was their top issue (26 percent) increased by a significant 14 percentage points from a similar poll conducted in early June. A newfound willingness to advocate the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement among an increasingly vocal share of prominent Democrats may, at least in part, explain the spike.
President Trump has identified this dynamic, facetiously encouraging Democrats to continue calling for the abolition of ICE because it bolsters his portrayal of the opposition as lawless.
“Well, I hope they keep thinking about it,” Trump said of Democrats considering abolishing ICE during an appearance on Fox News last week. “Because they’re going to get beaten so badly.”
Trump’s approval rating on his handling of immigration has not increased since the beginning of the year, remaining around 52 percent. Approval is sharply split along party lines: 84 percent of registered Democrats disapprove of Trump’s immigration policy while 81 percent of Republicans approve.
Healthcare remains the top issue for Democrats at 16 percent, followed closely by the economy at 14 percent. A small minority of Democrats appeared to share widespread Republican concern over immigration; just 7 percent reported it as their top issue.