More voters pointed to immigration than to inflation as a top policy concern in January, according to a Harvard CAPS-Harris poll released Monday.
The survey found that 35 percent of respondents listed immigration as their paramount concern among an array of issues, with inflation in a close second, named by 32 percent of respondents.
Immigration skyrocketed as an issue, jumping 7 percentage points in the list compared to the previous month’s poll.
Immigration and inflation were followed by “economy and jobs,” listed as a top concern by 25 percent of those surveyed, while “crime and drugs” and health care were each listed by 16 percent of respondents, the deficit and national security each by 14 percent of respondents and corruption and the environment were each named by 13 percent of people surveyed.
Yet, inflation was by far the most cited topic by respondents asked what issue affects them personally.
Twice as many respondents, 38 percent, said inflation affected them directly, than the 17 percent who cited immigration. The number of respondents who said immigration impacted them directly grew by 3 percentage points from the previous survey.
Crime and climate change were cited by 10 percent of respondents each as affecting them directly, while abortion and racial equity were each cited by 7 percent of respondents.
The pivot to immigration mirrors both a political environment tuning into border policy as a core issue and a reduction in inflation that’s somewhat deflated the political clout of that issue.
Both issues are at the tip of the Republican spear in attacks against President Biden, who is facing a reelection run with dangerously low approval numbers.
According to the HarrisX poll, Biden’s approval in January held at 42 percent, stuck in a low-40s doldrum that’s been the norm for the better part of two years.
That’s despite inflation objectively slowing from its year-to-year peak of 9.1 percent in June of 2022 to 3.4 percent in December, blunting that line of attack.
Republicans and some Democrats — like big city mayors — have kept immigration in the headlines, communicating a sense of crisis that’s taken hold among a large segment of the population.
And the GOP-established metric of success or failure in immigration, the number of monthly border encounters, has generally been accepted by the Biden administration.
Although those encounters have remained high throughout the Biden presidency, they’ve also been more or less stable since fiscal 2022, when U.S. border authorities encountered migrants without prior authorization to enter the country 2,378,944 times.
In fiscal 2023, officials reported 2,475,669 encounters, and the first reported numbers for fiscal 2024 show similar, if slightly higher, numbers in October and November. Homeland Security officials have said encounters lulled in January, though official numbers have not yet been reported, in keeping with expected seasonal fluctuations.
But a broad majority of voters said they believe immigration at the border is a worsening problem.
According to the poll, 64 percent of respondents said conditions at the border are getting worse, while 23 percent said they’re staying the same, and only 13 percent said conditions are improving at the border.
The partisan split on the issue is broad, with 81 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents and 45 percent of Democrats saying conditions are worsening — 34 percent of Democrats said conditions are staying the same, while 21 percent said they’re improving.
Additionally, 68 percent of respondents said the administration should make it tougher to get into the United States illegally, and 32 percent said current border policies should remain.
Broad majorities of Republicans and independents — 85 percent and 71 percent respectively — want to see tougher border enforcement, but Democrats are split at 50-50 on whether they’d like to see that.
Those numbers are a boon to bipartisan Senate border policy negotiators, who say they’re approaching a deal that’s been heavily criticized as tough-but-ineffective by immigration advocates and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.