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On illegal immigration, Trump supporters have views out of step with most Americans, poll says

Donald Trump rallies supporters Tuesday in Austin, Texas.
Donald Trump rallies supporters Tuesday in Austin, Texas.
(Suzanne Cordeiro / AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s supporters have darker views of immigrants in the country illegally than do most other Americans, according to a new poll Thursday from the Pew Research Center.

Most people in America, an overwhelming 76%, believe these immigrants are as hard working as U.S. citizens, and 67% say they are no more likely than Americans to commit serious crimes. Sixty-one percent oppose building a wall along the border with Mexico.

But among Trump backers, it’s another picture.

Fully half of Trump backers believe the immigrants are more likely to commit crimes, though other studies have suggested this is not true. And one in three say the immigrants are not as hard working as Americans. For Trump fans, 79% favor his signature campaign promise, often chanted at rallies, to “build the wall!”

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And while 24% of Americans see immigrants as taking jobs from Americans, that view rises to 35% among Trump supporters.

The survey offered a fresh reminder of just how far the views of Trump’s supporters are from those held by most others in America, and could help to explain why the GOP presidential nominee’s campaign has fallen far behind Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in key polls. The deeper the support for Trump, the dimmer the views of immigrants, the survey said.

“Those who express strong support for him hold more negative views of undocumented immigrants than those who support him only moderately or lean toward him,” according to the poll, a survey of 2,010 respondents, conducted in English and Spanish, earlier this month.

For more on immigration and the campaign »

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As Trump trails Clinton, he has been softening his tough stance on illegal immigration for a still evolving new one. His original plan to deport 11 million immigrants is now in question. A planned Thursday immigration speech was scrapped.

Trump suggested Wednesday night that those here illegally could pay back taxes as a way to remain in the U.S. “We work with them,” he said during a Fox News town hall.

Trump appears to be trying to widen his campaign’s appeal not only to Latino and immigrant voters, who mostly oppose him, but also to stem losses among moderate whites who may disagree with his harder views on immigration.

Fifty-four percent of white voters oppose the wall, according to the Pew survey, even though most Republicans, 63%, favor it.

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“It’s all about the white vote,” said Kica Matos, director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at Center for Community Change Action, who said minority communities remain unconvinced Trump is trying to appeal to them.

“As far as we’re concerned, Trump gave his immigration speech a long time ago,” said César J. Blanco, interim director of the Latino Victory Fund, a PAC that supports candidates aligned with Latino priorities. “The GOP presidential candidate has done a remarkable job of making it clear he doesn’t like us.”

The Pew survey showed that American attitudes about the nation’s illegal immigration issues have remained largely constant from past polls.

But Pew also noted that Americans share more common ground over what to do about the problem than the heated campaign trail rhetoric might suggest.

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For the first time, slightly more people, 29%, favored a path to citizenship for immigrants who meet certain criteria, compared to those who want beefed up border security, 24%.

And while Democrats and Republicans continue to split along partisan lines over those priorities, a plurality, 45%, said both policy options should be equally pursued.

The common ground extended across the party lines. Among Republicans and independent voters who lean Republican, 41% say border security and law enforcement should be the focus, the report said.

But about as many, 45%, say that “both stronger law enforcement and a path to citizenship should be given equal priority.”

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A similar dynamic emerged on the Democratic side. While 43% of Democrats want a path to citizenship, 47% “think both approaches should be given equal priority.”

Both presidential candidates have pushed immigration into the race, with Trump vowing to end President Obama’s executive actions, which halted deportations for some immigrants, and Clinton promising to pick up where Obama left off, helping immigrants avoid deportation if they are law-abiding and meet other criteria.

Congress considered a sweeping immigration overhaul in 2013 that would have put immigrants on a 10-year path to legal status if they came forward, paid fines and fees, with the opportunity later to apply for citizenship. The bill passed the Senate but was met with Republican opposition in the House.

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

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Twitter: @LisaMascaro


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