To balance these considerations, which are that over three hundred bills, the vast majority by Republicans, sorry, was that too loud?
Oh, no, sir. I just just sounded like somebody dropped something off.
Hello and welcome to the 538 Politics podcast, I'm Galen Droog. Last Thursday, Georgia Governor Brian Camp signed a package of voting rule changes into law.
The law contains a number of controversial provisions, like giving more authority over the state elections board to the legislature instead of the secretary of state. And it also bans volunteers from giving food, water or chairs to people waiting to vote. The law also expands early voting times after an earlier proposal would have limited voting on weekends. And it requires a form of I.D. for casting an absentee ballot but does not eliminate absentee or mail voting for Georgians under sixty five, as was previously considered.
We're going to discuss the new law and put it in context of the other proposals from Republicans around the country that could make voting more difficult. We're also going to take a look at the challenges facing the Biden administration when it comes to dealing with the surge of migrants at the southern border and immigration reform more broadly. There does not appear to be a broad consensus among Democrats about how to address the issue.
And in the near term, the US is seeing the largest increase in migrants at the southern border in 20 years, according to the homeland security secretary. Here with me to discuss it all, our editor in chief, Nate Silver, Hank Avlon, also with us as politics editor Sara Frost Johnson.
Hello, Sarah Hinkel. And elections analyst Nathaniel Rakha. Hello, Nathaniel. And before we get into any of the topics that I just mentioned, I want to ask one of our favorite questions, which, of course, was good use of polling or bad use of polling.
Today's example is a little more complex. It's maybe the best use of polling. So we're going to talk about D.C. statehood polling. A number of recent polls have gotten significantly different results when asking Americans whether or not they support D.C. becoming a state.
So non partizan polls that have simply asked, do you support or oppose granting statehood have found that Americans are pretty evenly divided. So in two recent polls, for example, forty nine percent of Americans supported D.C. statehood and forty five percent opposed. In another poll, it was thirty five percent support. Forty one percent oppose. But those are nonpartisan polls.
So when you look at the Democratic aligned Data for Progress poll, they told respondents that D.C. statehood would give Washingtonians representation like every other state, and support rose to fifty four percent when they said that it would fix a taxation without representation. Problem support rose even further to eight percent. Likewise, when Republican aligned pollster Rasmussen Reports told respondents that the US Constitution designates the nation's capital as a federal district and not a state, support fell to twenty nine percent, with fifty five percent opposing.
So non partizan polls, you get pretty closely divided country, but with different framing. Based on the partizanship of the pollster, you get some significantly different responses. So the question this time around is which of these is the best use of polling? I don't really care for polls that give you like some spin. I don't really understand why those are interesting. So I only care about these nonpartisan polls or just it's also like D.C. statehood. It's like not this incredibly complex thing or it's like not the public option or something.
We have to explain to people like should Washington, D.C. become a state? I understand what that means. I think every American understands what that means. You'd have fifty one states. You have to add a star to the flag or maybe two if you had Puerto Rico, too. So I look at those nonpartisan polls and they show, roughly speaking, that it's evenly divided country on this issue. I think I would call all of these good uses of polling in their own way.
I mean, maybe it's straightforward, but I don't think it's an issue that Americans have spent a lot of time thinking about. I think that is shown, frankly, in how the support changes so much, depending on how you frame the question. And so I do think it's useful from a campaign or partizan perspective to show each side how they should be framing their side of the debate. I think campaigns do this all the time. There's a tendency to decry, quote unquote, push polls, which actually aren't what people say they are.
Push polls are actually just straight up bad things that people do. They're not even polls at all. But the messaging polls, the campaigns put out there that are saying, you know, would you support a candidate who says X, Y or Z or supports X, Y, Z policy? That's an important part, I think, of politicians calibrating their messages to make sure that they are accurately representing the will of the people. And so I think on an issue that's just starting to come out onto the national stage, I think it's totally fair for each side to figure out what what makes the public come on their side on this issue and what doesn't.
Where it becomes a bad use of polling is if a partizan actor uses, say, the Data for Progress poll doesn't mention the fact that the question is obviously putting a thumb on the scale and says, oh, look. Fifty eight percent of Americans support. Statehood, obviously, that's disingenuous. What is a push poll, it is basically when a campaign calls up thousands and thousands of people like robo calls them basically and says, would you vote for Joe Biden, the devil worshiping terrible Democrat, or would you vote for Nikki Haley?
The inspiring story, South Carolina governor. And it pretends to be a poll, basically, but what really they're doing is disseminating this messaging to thousands and thousands of people and not even necessarily collecting the data. So basically, it functions as a robo call or a call that tells voters, hey, Joe Biden is evil and Nikki Haley is good.
OK, Sarah, we got a split decision so far.
I think I am closer on this to where Nathaniel is in terms of it is useful to understand in this debate how you frame it matters. It does shift opinions. That said, of course, like the fact that it is a simple yes. No, you can't then trace it historically. Like one thing you can do with the other polls to see that there has been a slight shift in support for D.C. statehood since it re emerged on the national scene last summer.
Again, not a huge shift, but enough of one that it is closer now to a majority in some polls. But it makes comparison difficult. Right. And I do think what Nathaniel mentioned about that actors and disingenuously framing it often happens as a result of these polls, which think can question some of their validity.
And worse in the real world, one side doesn't get to dictate how things are framed. And so one hypothetical brand of a message that we would like to frame things as it doesn't really have any applicability to to the real world.
We unpack that further because they're saying like, OK, well, this is basically telling partizans if you want to sell this issue to the American public, you should say we need D.C. statehood because taxation without representation is un-American. And Rasmussen is saying, OK, if you're a Republican who wants to prevent this, you should say, let's follow the US Constitution the way it was written.
D.C. is not meant to be a state. It's meant to be a district.
Isn't that useful information?
First of all, there's probably some cherry picking which toplines these groups tend to put out. That's part of my concern. If you test a bunch of messages, then maybe by chance alone, some of them work better than others. But again, you don't control how the message will be heard by people is some things. And also messages are rebutted. You might have a initial feeling and this is like the famous, possibly apocryphal, like Coke Pepsi test thing, right.
Where like people like Pepsi better if they have a little bit because it's sweeter, but then it doesn't age as well. So if you have like a longer term gestation period so you can make an argument that if it's unrebutted, might seem really smart. But the minute that people get in there and let me give you an example. A lot of the left in the primaries last year was last year, two years ago, my God, last year.
Although the premise of the primaries going up in twenty nineteen, there was a debate about Medicare for all and Medicare for all is a really cleverly constructed buzz word because Medicare is a popular program for all who could object to that. And so when you use the term Medicare for all time, it's really very popular until people start defining what that means. And if it means eliminating private health insurance and it's not that popular a program. And so, like, you don't get to have one message in a vacuum that isn't being manipulated and mitigated and ameliorated by all types of amnesties and lots of long and weird stuff which even aren't even applicable there.
But like, it's an artificial exercise. I think it's like the Coke Pepsi test.
I think the difference is that and it's absolutely right that both sides will make their arguments and that might cancel each other out. And because of his position as someone who's really interested in public opinion, is interested in what the American people really think. But I do think that if you put yourself in a partizan shoes that the polls are useful. And I am actually curious to see, for example, if these are the two main arguments made by Democrats and Republicans.
We're also assuming that those arguments are viewed as equally valid. And so none of these polls really pit the two arguments against each other. Maybe one of them will end up being much more persuasive to the American people.
OK, so who do you think wins out here? Do you think it just ends up like a 50 50 draw? What do we learn about the future from this polling?
That's a good question. Unless the IT girl of twenty twenty one the filibuster is done away with, I don't see this going in front of Congress any time soon. So I do think, particularly given that the nonpartizan polls here, to show that Americans are pretty divided on this, Eleanor Norton Holmes, for instance, who has said that she thinks Congress should take their time before they take it up. And obviously for her, that would be a big deal because she would finally have representation in the House in terms of being able to vote on bills.
That's the non-voting representative from DC.
Yes, the non-voting representative from DC. And so some of the Democrats, too, including. Mansion, cinema and the likely suspects there have been quiet on whether or not they support D.C. statehood. So as popular as this is in terms of the debate, it's hard for me to see it actually being taken up any time soon.
It's one of the more obvious things that Democrats can do to help. One might say level the playing field, because currently the Senate really advantages Republicans given the way that Republicans over perform in these lower population rural states right now. I don't know, maybe Democrats say, screw it, it's kind of a binary outcome, right, if you're passing some H.R. one stuff, which is this big A. gerrymandering, voting rights, big complicated package. If you're doing that, which is not done without eliminating the filibuster, then why not add states?
Fair enough. OK, the caveat there, though, it would be states are often introduced in pairs and the second pair here would be Puerto Rico, which also leans Democratic. And I think it's going to be hard for Republicans to side with this issue and not something that could be passed through budget reconciliation. Some saying you have to take the filibuster, but like adding one blue state and one in to go somewhere between blue and purple, probably state.
That's something I think parties that are smart, they do they differ in ways. I mean, Republicans do it when they have power. They find ways to, like, tip the scales in a way that they're more likely to keep that power. And they're kind of unforgiving about it. Republicans are and Democrats seem very squeamish about it.
I would note that I wouldn't conflate the issues of Puerto Rico and D.C. statehood because Puerto Rico actually does have some Republicans in support of statehood and it's less clear what its partizanship would be. But in terms of just D.C. statehood, if I had to guess public opinion wise, where public opinion will end up, I would say it's going to end up polarized along party lines like pretty much every other issue.
All right. And with that, let's move on and talk about the new voting laws in Georgia and other Republican proposals.
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Learn how to eat again with Neum. Sign up for your trial today at Noom A.M.. Dotcom politics again. That's Neum A.M. Dotcom politics. As I mentioned at the top on Thursday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a ninety eight page package of voting rule changes into law.
These changes come after Democrats won both the presidential and Senate races in the state and Trump falsely claimed that there was widespread voting fraud. I want to talk about the specifics of these new changes. And then I also want to talk about the bills that we're seeing in other states. So Nathaniel, along with our colleagues, Alex and Elena, published a piece on the site today tracking the different proposed voting restrictions from Republicans around the country.
Let's begin with Georgia. We've talked about various proposed changes to voting law in Georgia, primarily limiting weekend voting and Sunday voting in particular, that could limit souls to the polls. And then we also talked about the proposal to eliminate absentee or mail voting for Georgians under the age of 65. To clarify here, neither of those proposals actually made it into this final law. So those were some of the most controversial proposals. They aren't in here. But Nathaniel, what exactly did make it into this 98 page final bill that was signed into law last week?
So, as you mentioned, Gaylan, the bill is extremely long. And so there are lots of different provisions that we don't have time to go through. But some of the ones that are getting the biggest attention are requiring proof of identity, such as a photocopy of your ID or your driver's license number in order to cast an absentee ballot, just like voters in Georgia and in many other states are required to show ID if they vote in person, mirroring that process.
The bill also standardizes early voting hours, but as you mentioned, it still allows counties to provide Sunday early voting if they want to. It also restructures the state board of elections so that the secretary of state, who, of course, many Republicans are not a fan of these days, is no longer on the board. And instead the legislature can appoint that member of the board and also the state board of elections can remove local elections from their posts, which Democrats have said they fear will be targeting county election officials in places like Fulton County, which is where Atlanta is these majority minority areas, and basically taking local control away from voters in those areas.
The bill also basically takes all the teeth out of drop boxes so there can no longer be freestanding Dropbox's. They have to be inside early voting locations and they're only accessible when those locations are open, which, of course, kind of defeats the purpose of the drop boxes. And then there are plenty of other provisions as well. Let's say it gives voters less time to request absentee ballots. It prevents election officials from sending out applications to vote by mail proactively, like dozens of states did during the twenty twenty election as well.
And of course, the provisions that you mentioned up top, the banning of giving voters food and drink when waiting in line. That's been perhaps the most controversial element of the bill.
So I think there are two big questions here. The first is, what is the effect of these changes on our elections? Does it make it harder for certain segments of the population to vote, in particular black voters in Georgia? You know, that's one question.
And then the other question is, regardless of the effect, what is the intent? Why are Republicans doing this after Democrats won those two Senate races and, of course, the presidential race in Georgia? Let's begin with the first one. What do we know about the effects of these changes that Nathaniel just mentioned?
This is somewhat debated in the literature. Some research finds that there aren't terribly large partizan effects that might lower turnout, but like doesn't necessarily benefit one side. My research actually suggests that there is a predictable partizan effect in that when you enact the voting laws in their own Internet, go down. But that tends to advantage Republicans. We might also talk about like revealed preference. Right. Why are Republicans trying to do this? Well, they don't really care about voter integrity that much.
They want to win more elections and or make it harder for people who don't tend to like Republicans, like black people to vote. On the other hand, you have seen shifts in the kind of Trump era or the post Trump era, where people who are higher socio economic status, people who are more educated, people in the suburbs, tend to also be more or have become more democratic. Now, those people who vote pretty regularly, people who may have more types of advantages or privileges where like they might not be facing necessarily the long lines.
So it's a little bit more unpredictable in a world where maybe the GOP is trying to make it harder for black people to vote, but might also make it harder for like certain like rural Trump supporters to vote.
Yeah, that's right, that the evidence on this is mixed. But I think it's important not to lose sight of the normative stakes here, that one party is really leaning into the messaging of trying to restrict voting access. That makes me think of something we found in our survey last fall around. People who are either nonvoters or don't vote is frequently a substantial chunk said that they don't feel like either party wants people like them to vote. Twenty three percent said that of Democrats and thirty one percent said that of Republicans.
So it is some. That applies to both parties. You can't help but think with the recent uptick in numbers of laws we've seen passed this year, we counted over three hundred so far, most of which have been sponsored by Republican legislatures. But that doesn't feed into voters calculus that, oh, this party doesn't want me to vote. And that's an important thing for the health of a democracy. And a point that our colleague Perry Bacon made on Friday in his piece in terms of the bill in Georgia and its effects.
I mean, we, frankly, have used debates internally about how important the electoral consequences. And I think they're very important. And yes, there are number of consequences as well. But like. I don't think we'll have to be doing this unless they thought there were also electoral consequences, too, but it is tricky because, like, you don't have this happening in a vacuum. You have democratic groups that are trying to raise the salience of this issue and make their voters more aware.
It's one thing if you pass a bunch of laws and nobody notices and then four years later, something that a voter is used to, all of a sudden it's harder to do that probably would reduce turnout. If that voter, however, is now hyper aware that Republicans trying to make it hard for me to vote number one. And number two, I have to be more diligent now about making sure that I vote the right way. Then there's more risk of a backfire effect potentially.
And in fact, the Republicans had to scrap some of these more unpopular provisions, I think tells you that there are some degree of political constraints. And for a long time, I think Democratic groups didn't focus enough on voting rights, especially white Democratic groups, I think didn't think about it as much as black Democratic groups would. So you can't take the politics out of this issue because only one side is trying to restrict voting rights. But both sides are trying to, like, weaponize this in a way that will help them in elections and for Democrats to weaponize it by saying this is horrible, this is unacceptable.
By the way, make sure that you understand whose side hurricanes are on, not you, if you're a black voter, and make sure that you take extra care, making sure that your vote is counted.
Yeah, there is some evidence that laws like this can fire up the very population that they're meant to target. So, for example, in twenty eighteen, North Dakota enacted a law that made it so that you had to have a permanent physical residential address in order to vote, which many Native Americans don't because they live on reservations. And it actually ended up after a backlash, saying that the law was targeting Native Americans. Native Americans actually ended up having very high turnout.
So there is definitely reason to think that someone like Stacey Abrams will be able to convert this into votes in twenty twenty two.
I actually think one of the things that's not being talked about enough, in particular with the Georgia bill is Raffensperger role within it and how he's been reduced in terms of the power he has and oversight of the elections because there is so much uncertainty around how much will limiting absentee voting impact Democrats and Republicans remember, it wasn't really a partizan issue until twenty twenty. That effort that Republicans have pushed through strikes me as one in which Republicans are laying the groundwork, where it's easier to overturn election results, more so than trying to measure out how much difference one type of voting measure will make.
And that, I think, is something to keep an eye on, in particular with the other bills being considered.
Yeah, you saw bills introduced in legislatures like Pennsylvania and Arizona this year that didn't get anywhere to be clear, but they effectively or literally would have rescinded the certification of the electors and the legislature would have appointed their own.
Yeah, I wanted to comment on what you just mentioned, sir, which is that actually the early proposals that did seem more directed at affecting turnout were done away with so weekend voting and limiting mailing, absentee ballot voting for those under the age of sixty five, the ID required for absentee voting. Now you can put your driver's license. You can also put the last four of your Social Security number. So there is still pretty broad access here. And a lot of voting rights activists have talked about the challenges of signature verification because it is a pretty subjective process.
This would do away with that. So when it comes to turnout, these are not particularly draconian changes that you would expect. A lot of difference in turnout from the water and food and chairs for people waiting in lines. I'm not really sure where that comes from, but frankly, it seems like the bigger impact could be on the other side of the election, during the counting process, during the certification process.
And who has control over how all of that happens? Because, as you mentioned, Raffensperger, the secretary of state, has been in some ways neutered here. What kind of concerns do we have about that process going forward, given what we saw in twenty twenty and Trump's efforts to, particularly in Georgia, put pressure on elections officials there to overturn the result of the election?
I think that Mudie relationship is the most cause for concern among Democrats right now, and that is elections were not overturned in twenty twenty. The results were certified, but that also came at the expense of an insurrection at the Capitol. And audio being released where the president did try to pressure Raffensperger to overturn the results. Other reporting that he had tried to do the same with Governor Deucy in Arizona. And so what this does is it starts to give a blueprint where if the election results were in question.
Can the state legislators have more control now in that process to overturn the results? Now, does that mean that will happen? No, but it is removing barriers that prevent that from happening and not having that level of oversight, I think is some of the more troubling ways in which this law is rewriting voting law in Georgia. I agree with all that.
I would also say, though, Galen, I'm not sure that the turnout effects are that minimal. I think we don't know. I mean, they could remove election officials before the election because they were coming up with creative ways to expand voting. Like in Texas, they were doing drive through voting and twenty four hour early voting, which were things I had never heard of happening before. So I think the idea is to to remove election officials discussion both before and after the election.
OK, so if officials in counties are making it easier to vote in ways that the legislature doesn't approve of, they can basically quash that while it's happening in the run up to Election Day or the in this case, the legislatively appointed state board of elections.
Well, definitely something to keep an eye on here. But as I mentioned, Nathaniel, you and our colleagues, Alana and Alex, published a big review of all of the different proposals that we've seen around the country this year from Republicans, many of which could make it harder to vote. So can you paint a broader picture of what that looks like? How many different proposals are we seeing? What are the most concerning from the perspective of making it harder to vote and how many of them are likely to actually become law?
Alex, Alayna and myself came out with this article where we mapped and categorized over three hundred bills that we have been tracking, many of which were from the Brennan Center database. But we also added 50 of our own and the results were staggering. So first of all, eighty nine percent of the bills were sponsored primarily or entirely by Republicans. So that shows you that clearly the Republicans are the ones mostly behind these voter restrictions. They've been introduced in almost every state across the country.
Almost half of them have to do with absentee voting, which I think clearly is a you can draw a straight line from Trump's fraud claims and the increase in absentee voting from the pandemic to that. So that said, not all of these bills will become law. So of the three hundred and six that we were tracking, only fifty three or still alive and progressing actively through the legislature. And of course, not even all of those will become law as well, things like democratic opposition or even intra Republican opposition from backlash, as we were talking about in Georgia with some of the more severe requirements.
Those kinds of things can still stop a bill. So so there are three points I want people to take away from the article. One is that Republicans in particular are introducing a really shocking number of voter restrictions this year. Intent behind that. And the existence of these efforts is important for normative reasons, as Sarah said. Secondly, though, a lot of these bills, most of them and including the most severe ones, are not going to become law.
So it's not like they're going to be three hundred new voter restrictions on the books next year. But then the third caveat, which is that it's not about the quantity of bills, it's about the quality of the bills. And so even if only a handful of these laws passed, so so far we've tracked six laws that have passed and say only ten end up becoming law by the end of twenty twenty one. Those ten bills can still contain quite a few voter restrictions, as we saw in Georgia, as we saw in Iowa, which is the other state that's really, really clamped down on voting.
Yeah, I know that Republicans are somewhat limited in where they can pass these laws because the battleground states in the upper Midwest in particular have Democratic governors. And so the Republican legislature can't pass these laws on their own. You mentioned that we've seen sex become law so far. So we've seen Georgia and Iowa, which both of those states have Republican legislatures and governors. What other states have we've seen actual laws on the books so far this year.
So we've seen Utah make it easier to purge dead voters from the voter rolls. We've seen two bills in Arkansas to tighten that state's voter ID law. Specifically, it takes away the exception for people without an ID to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. And then a Kentucky law that takes away the ability of the governor and secretary of state to change election laws in an emergency, which, of course, Kentucky during the pandemic was held up as kind of a model of bipartisan cooperation when the Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state reached an agreement to expand early and absentee voting.
And you mentioned that a lot of these bills will not become law. But are there any states that you're watching in particular, where you think that more restrictions are likely to come?
Yeah, I think we're watching pretty closely a couple of bills in Texas that have a bunch of new restrictions, including effectively banning drive through voting. Florida is also another one where there's a bill as a priority of Rhonda Santos is to ban drop boxes and again, require ID in order to vote absentee. And then there are other states like Arizona that are also looking to. Higher ID for absentee voting, Missouri is looking to tighten its voter ID laws. Well, I would say, though, that Texas, Florida, Arizona, potentially Michigan, although, as you mentioned, there's a Democratic governor there.
Those are the states that I think voting rights advocates are most concerned about. We talked a little bit about voters reaction to this. I have a poll in particular, so you mentioned Iowa in Iowa, the Republican legislature and then the Republican governor passed a bill into law that shortens the early voting period by nine days and then closes polls an hour earlier on Election Day. Selzer and Company, which if you listen to our most recent podcast, you will know 538 has rated the best pollster in America.
They did a poll in Iowa that showed 52 percent of voters opposed condensing the early voting period and forty two percent were in favor. And this is in a state that has trended pretty Republican over the past decade or so.
So is this the kind of thing we should expect, a broad based backlash against? You know, we talk about black voters in Georgia. Iowa is a more homogenous white state. Fifty two percent of voters are opposing condensing early voting laws. Is this the kind of thing that becomes an electoral issue?
Historically, it hasn't been a high salience issue. This notion of is it an electoral issue or not as kind of a chicken and the egg issue to some extent, because it's an issue if people decide that it's an issue in the press frames, it is like this is kind of what the GOP stands for. Clearly, Democrats, both for reasons having to do with they want to make sure that voters are aware that they have to be on alert for new voting restrictions and also because like they want to create some backlash to it potentially.
But if the GOP says that we are concerned about election security, that's a concern that Americans might be somewhat sympathetic to. So like voter ID requirements, it seems to me like those tend to poll fairly well. Restrictions on voting hours and stuff like that tend not to poll so well. You're just making life kind of harder for people and giving them fewer options. People usually don't voluntarily choose to give up options that they might have to be pretty careful what they're doing or what they're not.
Because however, the effects are electorally, they're probably not enormous. They're probably on the margin to some extent. And so if you do something that has a direct marginal effect, it helps you. But indirect effect in terms of making us popular, that hurts you. And especially if, again, remember, Trump actually gained a little bit of ground with nonwhite voters in twenty twenty relative to 2016. If this serves as a reminder to voters of color that the GOP doesn't want you to vote, that makes it much harder for Republicans to build and have a constituency with nonwhite voters, as they would like to do, at least in theory.
That's also partly why I like this thing in Georgia about not being able to deliver food or water to people who are who are in line. That seems like purely cruel and punitive. And it seems like that's something that like if you had. The GOP being smart and tactical here is not something that you would do because it doesn't actually deter people from voting that much, but like, it just kind of seems like you're being a bunch of polls. And so the fact that that provision survived is interesting to me.
Yeah, I was surprised, Gailen, in the poll that you cited, that given how red Iowa has shifted in recent years that so many Iowans were opposed to these measures. I think that goes back to what Nate was saying about right. If you reduce hours, that makes it harder for people. But I also think something to keep an eye on here is how much of a pivot we see to this being election security and framed as such when the reality was there wasn't mass scale election fraud in twenty twenty.
And how seductive of a message that is to voters versus the message that you're losing voting rights and does that appeal to voters more in terms of an issue and something to vote against here in twenty, twenty two.
Right. And that's something that we've been tracking at 538, which is to what extent do Republican voters or independents believe former President Trump and other Republicans when they say that there was widespread voter fraud? That number seemed pretty high among Republicans.
So we'll have to continue tracking it, like you mentioned, just to build on to what Nate and Sara were saying, I think that the public opinion on some of these voting access questions is actually not necessarily what you would expect. So, for example, before 20, 20, at least everyone liked absentee voting, Republicans included. Voter ID laws are generally popular also, as Nate said. And I think it becomes a question of does this issue get sucked into this kind of partizan framing of they don't want you to vote versus we must protect the integrity of our elections.
And then everybody starts to see all of these questions as just filters for the real question of like, do you support the Democratic view on voting rights or the Republican view on voting rights?
All right. Well, as with all the stuff we will keep on tracking and Nathaniel, I know you've also been tracking some of the bills proposed by Democrats as well that are trying to expand voting access. And we should talk about that sometime in the future. But let's move on and talk about why immigration and the current surge of migrants at the border is such a tricky topic for Democrats.
But first, today's podcast is brought to you by the podcast. Start here. If it feels hard to keep up with the news every day, I have a podcast for you.
It's called Start Here, and it's a daily show for my friends and colleagues at ABC News. Start here gives you a quick, straightforward understanding of the day's news so you can get on with your day. Everything from the latest on covid to what's happening in Washington and what it means for you. Start here. Has you covered? You'll even hear me, Nate, and some of your favorite 538 reporters on start here from time to time.
Clear reporting from ABC's most experienced journalists. Check out start here wherever you listen to your podcast. Democrats are facing both short and long term political challenges when it comes to addressing immigration in the short term. The U.S. is experiencing the largest surge in migrants at the southern border in 20 years.
The cause is multifaceted and debated, but it comes after Biden undid numerous Trump era policies, including a rule aimed at keeping asylum seekers in Mexico while they await fair hearings. The Biden administration is still using a Trump era rule aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus to turn away all migrants except for unaccompanied minors. And they're now struggling to house those minors adequately.
In the longer term, it is not clear that there is a consensus among Democrats on a broader immigration reform package.
The Democratic caucus includes views ranging from those who called for abolishing ICE, the Immigration Enforcement Agency, to those who want stricter enforcement, including E-Verify, which would require businesses to check the employment eligibility of their employees with government data.
According to Politico, a House whip count showed Democrats don't currently have the votes to pass Biden's big reform package that would provide a pathway to citizenship for most immigrants in the country illegally. So let's start with the short term. How serious of a challenge for the Biden administration is this migrant surge at the border?
It's pretty serious. I know that it is often framed as a right wing talking point that are migrant caravans at the border. And there is a lot of reporting to underscore that some of what we're seeing now is seasonal or it's expected after the border has been kind of shut down for the last year because of the pandemic. But the reality is, as you said at the top here, that it's still the highest it's been in roughly 20 years. And that's a problem for the Biden administration, particularly as they expect the numbers to tick up even higher.
As Biden even said in an interview earlier this month, he's telling migrants, don't come. I think what's hard and is a continual issue for Democrats in this is that it's a little bit unexpected. It's hard to know when there will be surges, what is driving the surges, when the surges will stop. And our immigration system is really just at capacity for how to house a lot of the unaccompanied minors who are trying to cross the border to. And, you know, it's one thing to roll back Trump's policies, but then what do you substitute in place?
And that's what Democrats have to grapple with now.
I think there is some degree of truth in the notion that, like, if the press treat this as a huge deal, then it carries more political salience and maybe more downside risk for for Democrats. I mean, one thing that kind of jumps out to me, though, looking at some of these numbers.
Is the notion of like thermostatic public opinion, which is that opinion kind of tends to actually go in the opposite direction of whoever has power, whoever is president under Trump, Democratic opinion, both among elite Democrats and rank and file voters, shifted in a much more pro immigration direction over the course of four years of Trump when Biden enters office and now all of a sudden, he would bear the blame or credit, I suppose, for immigration policy on the border, then that might be a bit different.
And so how much increased Democratic support for immigration was kind of an anti Trump signal that no longer applies as much underbite? Because the line under the Democrats going to use for years was like we have to secure the border and then find maybe a pathway to citizenship for people who are already here. Security in the border part was always part of the kind of core. If you look at the Democratic platform like 08 with Obama. Right. But that's kind of was always part of the message and that sort of become challenged a little bit more under Trump.
And now, in some ways, Biden is kind of like returning to like good late 20s, early twenty ten Democratic message on immigration with caution that the party itself has shifted.
I mean, in twenty sixteen, Clinton's platform didn't even mention illegal immigration, whereas to your point. Right. No, wait, that was a really salient issue. But I think part of it, too, is that the party, the Democratic Party is really divided on this question, too, which ties Biden's hands on how to proceed to that point.
Can you talk a little bit about that? How exactly is the Democratic Party divided and how has it evolved on immigration in, I guess, recent decades?
Even so, something we definitely heard a lot in the presidential primary debates was the nineteen ninety four crime bill. Well, at the same time, in that era, when Democrats moved to be really tough on crime, Clinton was the first time they'd won the presidency in three elections. And part of that was a shift to be tougher on law enforcement. You saw that with immigration giving us the immigration system we know today around deportations, making sure that the border was secure and restricted.
But now, as you mentioned, ice and abolishing it, not having open borders, but having a much more humanitarian view of immigration where the federal government is not deporting as many people, where there are pathways to citizenship, and where the numbers of immigrants who are allowed into the country each year is boosted up. That's now a significant wing of the Democratic Party, while at the same time you still do have a more centrist faction within the party that has its roots in the older labor wing of the party and the older just establishment wing that cares about the economy, the American worker.
And so even though overall the party has shifted so that they are in favor of immigration, that hasn't really translated to policy. Aside from paving the way for what are called the dreamers, those who were brought here as children illegally.
Yeah, and I think there's a lot of truth to what Nate said about Democratic positioning on immigration being defined in relation to Trump, who was so anti-immigration. But it's also worth noting that Democratic voters at least have become more liberal on immigration over time, for decades, even before Trump. So, for example, in 2004, less than 50 percent of Democrats agreed with the idea that immigrants strengthen our country, whereas now that number is beyond seventy five percent.
You also have Democrats seeing immigration as less of an economic threat than they have seen previously. So in 2004, again, forty eight percent of Democrats said it was extremely or very likely that immigration would take jobs away from Americans and the economy, whereas that number went down to twenty six percent by twenty sixteen.
It's also worth mentioning, not necessarily is delving into all the details of particular policy positions or necessarily how is that coherent a policy stance? It's maybe more of a feeling about which party they trust more in immigration and immigration. The polling is more equivocal. Who do you trust more Democrats, Republicans to do on immigration? And actually kind of had traditionally been a GOP strong point under Trump that shifted a bit more where in polls a plurality would say Democrats. Now it seems like it's more even handed again, but it's not like the Democrats best issue on questions like that, right?
If you ask voters, who do you trust more on health care, Democrats or Republicans, as many challenges Democrats had with passing Obamacare and so forth, people just trust Democrats. More on that issue on immigration, a lot more equivocal. And to underscore that issue, even before there were reports of a surge at the border. Immigration was something that Biden it was one of his poorest issues that he was pulling on already. It just is something that I think is hard for Democrats to effectively message because there are so many.
Divisions on how best to handle it, yeah, I want to put a finer point on that. Over the weekend, we saw new polling out from ABC News and Ipsos, which showed that Biden is under water for his handling of the way they describe it as the situation with migrants at the border. So his approval there is a net negative 16.
Also saw a Politico morning consult polling recently that showed that forty three percent of voters overall believe that undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the US should have a pathway from citizenship, down 14 points since January. I'm quoting Politico here. Among Democrats, support for a pathway dropped from seventy two percent to fifty seven percent over that period, and just one in four Republicans backed the idea, down 10 percentage points. So it seems like since Biden has taken office in particular, we have seen you mentioned thermostatic of public opinion.
It's almost been just a matter of months that has caused this backlash. Is this common?
Should we question this polling, wait for more data? You know what's going on here.
So for one thing that's worth noting is that forty three percent seems like a low number, but an additional 19 percent also said that undocumented immigrants should be able to stay in the country, just not become citizens. So there is kind of a glass half empty glass half full way to describe that for Democrats. But it's interesting because morning consulate is usually a very stable pollster because of the way they do surveys. And it's like a tracking poll. So I'd like to see that kind of decline really surprised me.
You'd see much smaller movement for them usually. And typically there is generally a lot of support, like in the past, even before Trump giving a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants has been popular. So I would like to see more data before fully running with that.
I agree with that. I don't think it is just one poll and I don't think it overwrites the longer term trend here that we were talking about earlier where, you know, since the mid 2000s, Democrats have by and large, it's up over 90 percent now to say that immigrants strengthen the country. And so I kind of read this as what Nate was saying. Up top about some of this is how the media is playing it with the messaging. Looks like conservatives, Republicans have been doubling down on what's happening at the border and more mainstream organizations have as well in the sense of wanting access to where the children are currently being sheltered.
What are the conditions like? I think that poll reflects that Americans are not happy with how Biden is handling it versus maybe a real change on immigration views.
That net negative 16 approval from the ABC News poll of how Biden is handling the migrant crisis.
How can we tell whether that's like more left leaning voters in particular, who would be concerned about the humanitarian conditions? They should be letting more migrants in or that they should be in better facilities versus people who want to see Biden take a tougher stance on enforcement and sealing the border in a more Trump style way. How can we tell where that negative opinion is coming from?
Did that poll use the phrase crisis, by the way? It did not. It called it a situation situation with migrants at the border. I think it's a combination of both. Right. Any time you see approval rating numbers go down below the normal 50 50 range, it has to be both weakness with the base and opposition. So among Democrats in that poll, they approved of Biden's handling of the situation on the border. Sixty four percent to thirty three percent, which obviously is positive, but I think is a lot weaker than you would normally like to see among your base.
So I think clearly there is some Democratic discontent. But then, of course, on the other hand, you had Republicans who said that they disapproved of it 10 percent to eighty nine percent. So near unanimous opposition from Republicans.
So it's it is that combination there, although we don't know what direction the Republican opposition comes from to and if the framing of the situation is that he is also keeping, quote unquote, kids in cages, maybe the out party dynamic is so strong that Republicans will start to see that as, oh, Biden's letting kids suffer the complicated parts to the data here.
Looking forward. On day one, Biden proposed this big immigration reform bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for most immigrants in the country illegally. According to Politico reporting, after a whip count in the House, it did not seem like Democrats had the votes to pass that they instead passed two separate bills, one focused on providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, people who came to this country as children and then also a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers.
Looking ahead, what is the Democratic position here on immigration in terms of like a big reform bill? And are they likely to get anything passed over these two years, at least, that they have the House, the Senate and. The White House. I mean, no, they're not right. Yeah, I mean, same old story, right? All right, thank you for listening to the. You're right. Yeah. Biden was one of the Democrats from the debates who didn't come out and say, I think we should criminalize those who are crossing the border undocumented.
And the fact that he did that suggests that to some extent he's going to try to hold in the middle of the line of the party as best as he can. Right. In the sense of I want to pave a path to citizenship. But in order to do that, I'm going to need 10 Republican votes unless I do away with the filibuster. And that will require some level of trade offs around border security. And to be clear, it's not just I mean, this is true more so in the House and the Senate, but it's not just Republicans who are pushing for border security.
A lot of Texas Democrats and people who just live along the border, including Hispanic voters, who, as we saw in twenty twenty, did shift to the right and vote for Trump, want more border security. So it is this complicated issue to those who live closest to the border there. It's its own politics around it that isn't actually as straight Republican or Democratic as a lot of other issues and keeping that part of the party happy versus more vocal members like Alexandria Cortez asking for a more open immigration policy that doesn't cap as many migrants coming into the country.
And so, as I said, as with everything moving forward here, it's hard to see what the congressional map is for Democrats to get this through. It would require, dare I say, bipartisanship. That doesn't seem to be happening yet. So to kind of set the scene a bit, as I understand it, there are three bills under consideration. There's Biden's moonshots immigration proposal, pretty progressive, would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
That bill doesn't even seem to have the support right now, at least to pass the House. And then there are two smaller bills that have passed the House, one that would provide a path to citizenship for the recipients as well as temporary protected status people. And then also one that would reform the system for farm workers and provide a path to citizenship for about one million undocumented farm workers. Those two, I think, are the question marks. And you would think that maybe individually there would be some support, there would be at least some Republicans who would be in favor of that, considering that those are pretty popular things.
But I think what you might just be seeing is polarization strikes again. And this idea of a lack of forbearance, which is a fancy political science term for the parties, don't trust each other. They don't want to work with each other. They don't want to hand the other party a legislative victory. And so, like there probably could be just based on the polling, both, for example, the DREAM Act and increased border security are very popular with the American public, including among both parties.
And so you would think that maybe a compromise bill that gave a path to citizenship for Dreamers, but also beefed up border security could actually get 60 votes in the Senate. But I think because of this partizan distrust and polarization, that bill may just not get proposed.
All right. Well, we'll continue to watch how this unfolds and we'll watch how the polling unfolds as well.
Whether or not we do see a public opinion backlash to the Biden administration or whether or not the polls that I mentioned earlier on were outliers. But that's it for now. So thank you, Sarah. Anderson, thank you. Thanks. My name is Galen Droog. Tony Chow is in the virtual control room clear of Gary Curtis is on audio editing. You can get in touch by emailing us a podcast at 538 Dotcom. You can also, of course, tweet us with any questions or comments.
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