What ‘08 Election Meant for Immigration Reform | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

What ‘08 Election Meant for Immigration Reform

[verbatim]In 2008 America's Voice (AV), a new communications campaign organization, was launched to harness the power of America's voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform. Working with pollsters Pete Brodnitz, Celinda Lake, David Mermin, and Sergio Bendixen as well as NDN, Hildebrand Tewes, and other leading experts, AV tracked the politics of immigration in the 2008 elections. Following are our top findings. For more, visit http://www.immigration08.com.

1. The illegal immigration "wedge" strategy employed by many Republicans and some Democrats failed spectacularly, and candidates who support immigration solutions won over hard-liners.

2. Voters support comprehensive immigration reform and expect action from the next Congress and President.

3. Latino and immigrant voters see this as a defining issue, and their vote made a difference in the Presidential, House, and Senate races.

AV ANALYSIS: In 19 of 21 Competitive House and Senate Races, the Candidates Favoring a More Comprehensive Approach on Immigration Defeated their Hard-Line Opponents

New analysis by America's Voice's shows that in battleground House and Senate races, candidates supporting broader immigration reforms consistently beat out hard-line politicians. We looked at 16 House races deemed competitive by The Cook Political Report a month before the election where the Democratic and Republican candidates held divergent views on immigration reform, and 5 Senate races in this same camp. Reformers beat hardliners in 14 of these 16 House races and in all 5 Senate races. The same dynamic occurred in the Presidential contest, where Senator Barack Obama was an unwavering supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, while Senator John McCain tacked right during the Republican primaries.

UPCOMING AV ANALYSIS: Politicians Reap Little Benefit from Immigration Attack Ads

AV will soon publish a more detailed review of immigration campaign ads this cycle, but our initial analysis of Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG) data shows that House, Senate, and Presidential candidates spent at least $21,222,733 on 193 immigration ads during the 2008 election cycle. The vast majority of these ads (84%) referenced an enforcement-only approach. Of this total, 132 ads were placed by losing candidates and 61 by winners.

AV PUBLIC OPINION RESEARCH: Voters Want Real Solutions, Not Politicking
AV conducted a series of public opinion polls targeting voters in swing districts and nationwide. Following are the key findings from these polls:

1. Voters want and expect action on immigration reform. While the economy is obviously the top concern for voters, nationwide 66% think immigration was discussed too little during the 2008 election cycle and 57% believe immigration reform should be a high priority for the new Congress. These results were consistent with polling in battleground Congressional districts.1 By a 56-6% margin, voters in swing districts think the issue was discussed "too little" vs. "too much" in the 2008 cycle, and by a 46-15% margin they say "enacting immigration reform" is a high priority.

2. Voters prefer a comprehensive approach with legalization over an enforcement-only policy. By a 57-28% margin, nationwide voters prefer "a comprehensive approach that secures the border, cracks down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, and requires all illegal immigrants to register and meet certain requirements to become legal" over "we need to secure our border, stop giving taxpayer funded benefits to illegal immigrants, and make sure that those who broke our laws by entering this country illegally are forced to leave." The same was true for swing district voters by a 60-30% margin. Similarly, by a 60-33% margin, voters nationwide prefer comprehensive reform over enforcing current laws, described as "Congress should not pass amnesty of any kind. Instead they should enforce the laws currently on the books." By a 64-30% margin, swing district voters agree.

3. Voters support citizenship over temporary status. Voters overwhelmingly support permanent status and citizenship for undocumented immigrants over temporary status: 67-13% of voters nationwide, 71-17% of Latino voters, and 67-10% of swing voters. Just 14% of voters nationwide, 8% of Latino voters, and 16% of swing district voters prefer an enforcement-only approach when given those three options.

4. The public sees comprehensive immigration reform as consistent with, not working against, our nation's economic recovery. Nationwide, 62% of voters believe "We would be better off if people who are in the United States illegally became legal taxpayers so they pay their fair share," vs. 21% who say "We would be better off if people who are in the United States illegally left the country because they are taking away jobs that Americans need." Swing district voters agreed, supporting the former statement over the latter by a 66-23% margin.

AV PUBLIC OPINION RESEARCH: The Republican Approach to Immigration Pushed Latinos Away

AV and America's Voice Education Fund also conducted polling of Latino voters before and after the election and analyzed voter turnout. Here are our main findings:

1. The Latino vote is large, growing, and trending more Democratic than ever. The Latino vote was 9% of the electorate in 2008 (approximately 11 million voters), an increase of over 3 million voters since 2004 and nearly double the Latino turnout of 2000. After supporting Kerry by a 56-44% margin against Bush in 2004, Latinos supported Obama 67-31% against McCain—
the largest shift among all major demographic groups this election.

2. Latinos are changing the electoral map. In Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada, states Bush won in 2004, the Latino break towards Democrats in 2008 was a major factor in Obama's victories there and in Democratic House and Senate pick-ups as well. Additionally, the impact of immigrant voters and their children was felt in other states across the nation, according to a new study by the Immigration Policy Center.

3. Key demographics that used to support the Republican Party are making huge shifts toward the Democrats. In 2004, Spanish-dominant Latino voters supported Kerry narrowly over Bush 52-48%. This group was a key factor in Bush's strong showing among Latinos, winning approximately 40% of the overall Latino vote. According to AV's research, this year Spanish-dominant voters went for Obama over McCain 75-25%. Another important subset, Latino evangelicals, also trended Democratic in 2008 and favored Obama by a 17-point margin in mid-October polling, despite having supported Bush 63% in 2004.

4. Immigration reform is a key factor driving Latino voters away from the Republican Party and into the Democratic camp. In AV's survey, 89% of Latin American immigrant voters say the issue was important to them and their families, including 63% who called the issue "very important." Before the election, the Pew Hispanic Center found that 93% of Latino voters see the issue as important and, by a 49%-7% margin, Latino respondents believe Democrats have more concern for Hispanics, while just 7% choose the Republicans. These findings were also echoed in separate polls conducted by NALEO and NDN before the election.

Lessons to Learn for Both Parties

The Republican Party has an opportunity to learn from the results of the 2008 elections and re-orient itself toward solutions that work for swing voters, Latinos, and a solid majority of voters overall. If it fails to learn these lessons, the GOP could cede large swaths of the electoral map to the Democrats for a generation. The Democratic Party also has an opportunity to win voters if it tackles comprehensive reform. With the Party in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House, the American people will be expecting real results on issues like immigration. If the Party fails to engage on this important issue, it risks a backlash from swing voters and Latinos who want action, particularly if the Republican Party can re-habilitate its image with these groups.

I look forward to working with you on this important issue. If I or a member of my staff can ever be of assistance, please contact us at 202.463.8602.


1. VA-11, AZ-01, AZ-05, NM-01, WA-08, CO-04, IL-14, NV-03, and PA-11.

America's Voice -- Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.



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