Kellyanne Conway is Donald Trump’s campaign manager, but she is also one of the few pollsters who have identified Americans’ good-hearted ambivalence about immigration, jobs and fairness to Americans.
The ambivalence is that Americans want to like the idea of immigration, they also like individual immigrants, and they also really, really prefer that Americans and in-place legal immigrants — but not future immigrants — get new jobs.
This ambivalence means that the media’s favorite ways of looking at immigration — moderate vs. tough, soft vs hard, centrist vs extreme, “deportation force” vs. “immigrant rights” — have utterly skewed the media coverage in a way that favors mass-immigration wage-cutting policies favored by business groups and the Democratic party.
What Americans really want is a hard policy to protect Americans’ jobs from being outsourced to migrants, plus they want that hard policy clothed in the soft language of welcome, decency and respect for migrants.
That kind of tough pro-American policy in soft language gets 80 percent support or even higher in polls.
The tough-and-soft approach is especially important for minority voters — Africans-Americans and Hispanics. They’re the hardest hit by lower-wage immigration — read about Milwaukee here — yet are very sympathetic to legal and illegal immigrants who are trying to get jobs in the United States.
This public’s decent but hard-headed ambivalence is also being muddled by the media’s coverage of Trump’s shifting language on immigration and labor policy. In recent weeks, the media has hooted as Trump’s statements have increasingly been clothed in softer terms and refocused on jobs and fairness — as Conway prefers — even as his immigration statements continue be very hardline.
In Tampa, Florida, for example, he declared on Aug. 24 that;
We are going to protect your jobs because your jobs are not being protected. Hillary Clinton wants to have a totally open border where people can just pour in and take your jobs and lots of other things happen. We are going to enforce our laws. Remove people who overstay their visas, dismantle the gangs and cartels and protect jobs and benefits for hard-working American citizens — and many of them are African-American, by the way, and many of them are Hispanic. We are going to protect your jobs. That includes protecting the jobs and wages of the Hispanic citizen, and living right here in Florida.
Conway is pushing the point too. Trump “is not talking about a deportation force, but he is talking about being fair and humane,” she told Face The Nation on August 28.
In 2014, Conway told this reporter that “immigration is a matter of national security, lawlessness AND jobs.”
Trump may yet loosen his popular immigration-reform policies as he faces more pressure from the business-wing of the Republican Party. For example, he may drop his support for a two-year pause in legal immigration or drop his plans to reform the H-1B white-collar guest-work programs so that it can’t use used to outsource white-collar jobs to foreign guest-workers.
Those changes may happen soon — he’s scheduled to give a speech on today which is focused on illegal immigration, not the far more important issue of legal immigration.
The annual inflow of illegal immigrants is a few hundred thousand — but legal immigration brings almost 2 million immigrants and temporary workers to the nation each year to compete for jobs against the 4 million young Americans who begin searching for jobs each year.
Americans want to like the idea of immigration. That’s because they recognize the huge importance of immigration to historical Americans — the Mayflower, the settlers moving across the plains, the waves of Germans and Irish and Poles and Italians who built up this nation’s industrial economy and filled out its suburbs.
The vast majority Americans personally like hard-working immigrants. In fact, Americans offer a historically unprecedented, off-the-charts welcome to foreign migrants. Outside the United States and Europe, migrants have always been stopped at the border by swords and spears, forced into slavery or into the hills, enslaved, exploited and annihilated. But Americans welcome migrants — even illegal immigrants — with welfare payments, free housing, free lawyers and endless favorable media coverage.
Those two welcoming attitudes help explain why migrants now add up to one-in-seven of the population in the United States. That’s around 41 million foreigners — including this reporter — in a nation of 270 million native-born Americans. That 41 million sounds like a lot — but it garishly understates the actual inflow of foreign workers.
To understand the scale of immigration into the United States, it is better to compare the annual inflow of new Americans to the inflow of new foreigners.
Birth statistics show that roughly 4 million Americans are born into the United States each year — but immigration statistics show that the federal government also invites in at least 1 million legal immigrants. That’s means that one-in-five of new Americans each year are foreigners, not native-born.
The federal government also invites almost one million foreign temporary workers into the nation each year. So when those 4 million Americans who were born eighteen years ago look for jobs, they face brutal wage-cutting competition from 2 million newly arrived immigrants and foreign workers.
That means that two of every six new workers in this country are foreign born. Of course immigration is having a huge impact on Americans’ wages and salaries, on their workplace security and on their hopes for their children.
So Americans are increasingly worried that mass immigration is hurting their wages, salaries and their children’s futures.
Here’s the key result from an August 2014 survey where Conway explored Americans’ views about immigration, jobs and fairness:
Overall, 77 percent of the Conway’s likely-voter respondents said Americans should be favored [in job hiring decisions] over immigrants. That opinion was shared by 88 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of independents and 78 percent of moderates … 92 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of independents, 63 percent of Hispanics and 53 percent of liberals say the government has not done enough enforcement.
Seventy-five percent of Americans want;
more enforcement of current immigration laws, including 63% of Hispanics and over 50% of Democrats … 77% believe U.S. born workers and legal immigrants already in the country should be given preference for jobs over new legal immigrants [and] 89% agree over illegal immigrants.
“Eighty percent of Americans straight up said that any newly created jobs should go to American workers,” Conway told this reporter in 2014. “It is a matter of fairness to them.”
People are asking ‘What’s fair to the rest of us? What’s fair to the high school or college student who is looking for a job? What is fair to the guy who can’t find employment? What’s fair to the business owners?” she said.
That’s very different from the skewed polls funded by business groups, or the mushy and vague polls run by nice people at various non-profit organizations, such as Pew. But Conway’s insight is repeatedly validated by results in the establishment’s mushy polls.
For example, a July survey of Midwestern registered voters by vox.com and Morning Consult showed that public opposition to immigration rose as questions moved from vague issues about immigration to concrete questions about jobs.
The survey initially asked people: “Should legal immigration into the United States be kept at its present level, increased or decreased?” The survey did not describe the current one-for-four rate of immigration, and 16 percent responded with ‘increased,” 39 percent said “decreased” and 32 percent said “kept at its present level.”
That’s 16 percent ‘increase’ to 39 percent ‘decreased’ — even though the survey did not describe current immigration levels to the voters, very few of whom understand the true numbers.
But when the poll eventually asks about jobs, the answer becomes far more negative.
The survey asked; “In general, do you think immigrants in the United States help create jobs, take away jobs, or have no impact on jobs?” This time the answer was 18 percent “create jobs,” 52 percent “take away jobs” and 19 percent “have no impact on jobs.”
That’s 18 percent support to 52 percent opposition, even though the arrival of migrants does actually increase the number of jobs, if only because the new immigrants have to buy food, shelter and autos.
The Vox poll also includes another set of evidence that Conway’s jobs-and-fairness view is correct.
Americans with lower incomes or less education are more likely to oppose job-taking immigrants than are the wealthier, better-educated Americans who largely escape the marketplace competition from lower-skilled immigrants.
Americans with high-school qualifications are far more pessimistic on the “create” vs “take away” jobs question (14 percent vs. 55 percent) than are Americans with post-graduate degrees (29 percent vs. 39 percent).
Americans who earn less than $50,000 percent year also are far more opposed to mass immigration than are upper-income Americans. Low-income Americans split 16 percent “create jobs” vs. 53 percent “take away jobs,” while Americans who earn above $100,000 per year split 28 percent vs. 42 percent.
Among Hispanics, 31 percent say immigration takes jobs. That’s four points above Gov. Mitt Romney’s share of the Hispanic vote in 2012.
Among African-Americans, 34 percent said immigration takes away jobs. That’s 28 percentage points above Romney’s 6 percent score of the African-American vote in 2012.
The ambivalence pops up in many other polls.
For example, a huge poll funded by Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg supposedly showed that Americans strongly support an amnesty of illegals. The poll was junk — but it accidentally revealed that 78 percent of Latinos in America want stronger border protections, and 77 percent want workplace checks, to stop more Latinos from illegally entering Americans’ job markets and safe neighborhoods.
In September 2014, the National Republican Senatorial Committee paid Paragon Insights to investigate whether Sen. Jeff Sessions’s low-immigration policies would help the GOP in an election. That’s important because Sessions’ immigration policies have largely been embraced by Trump.
51 percent of unmarried women said they would be much more likely to vote for a GOP candidate who said that “the first goal of immigration policy needs to be getting unemployed Americans back to work — not importing more low-wage workers to replace them,” according to a September poll. An additional 19 percent of unmarried women said they would be “somewhat more likely” to vote for the GOP, said the poll …
Forty-two percent of Hispanics said they would be much more likely to support a GOP candidate who says that “immigration policy needs to serve the interests of the nation as a whole, not a few billionaire CEOs and immigration activists lobbying for open borders,” according to Paragon’s survey. An additional 24 percent of Hispanics said they would be “somewhat more likely” to vote GOP, said the poll.
In the summer of 2014, President Barack Obama choose to let Central American migrants cross Texas border en-masse — and the public reacted by rejecting his immigration policies.
By July 2014, 57 percent off Americans strongly opposed his border policies, while only 18 percent strongly supported those policies. By August, even 58 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents opposed his open-borders policy.
Even when the migrants were generously described as “children,” 45 percent of registered voters — including 52 percent of independents, 63 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Hispanics — said they should be repatriated “as soon as possible”
Democrats recognize this hostility. Since 2012, Obama has used a variety of complicated tactics — plus media cooperation — to muffle debate over his decision to let roughly 300,000 Central American migrants cross into the United States. Very few of those economic migrants have been sent home by Obama’s agencies.
Some advocacy groups have tried to highlight the public’s worry about jobs.
NumbersUSA favors reduced immigration, and it produced a poll in August 2013. Only 2 percent of respondents strongly opposed a statement saying that American companies “should try harder to recruit and train … [Black, Latino, young and disabled] unemployed Americans before seeking new foreign workers.”
Sixty percent of the respondents agreed with the statement — and they’re the target audience for Trump’s new tough-but-soft immigration policy and language.