March 31, 2016

Campaign Exposes Fissures Over Issues, Values and How Life Has Changed in the U.S.

2. Views on immigration, diversity, social issues

Republican and Democratic registered voters remain far apart on key questions regarding perceptions of immigrants and immigration policy, views on the security treatment of U.S. Muslims and views on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

These gaps across parties are familiar. The gaps within parties by primary candidate support vary by issue. In general, disagreements among Republican voters are more common – and larger in magnitude – than disagreements among Democratic voters when it comes to questions on immigrants and immigration, U.S. Muslims, and same-sex marriage and abortion.

On the Republican side, Trump supporters tend to hold more conservative views than Cruz and Kasich supporters on immigration and in their views of U.S. Muslims. Large majorities of Trump supporters say immigrants burden the country, back building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border and say U.S. Muslims should be subject to additional security scrutiny – fewer Cruz or Kasich supporters agree. However, when it comes to the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage, Ted Cruz supporters are the most likely to take conservative positions and say that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases and that gays and lesbians should not be allowed to marry legally.

By contrast, there is broad agreement among Clinton and Sanders supporters that immigrants make positive contributions to the U.S., that there should not be a border wall and that Muslims should not be subject to additional security scrutiny because of their religion. On some issues, modest differences emerge between Sanders and Clinton supporters, but these differences are limited to the size of the majority expressing an opinion. For example, 83% of Sanders supporters say gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry legally, compared with fewer – but still most – Clinton supporters (68%).

Divides within the GOP in views of immigration policy

Section2_1Republican and Democratic registered voters take opposing views on whether immigrants are more of a strength or burden for the United States. By a wide 78%-17% margin, Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters say immigrants today do more to strengthen the country through their hard work and talents than burden the country because they take jobs, housing and health care. By contrast, 56% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters view immigrants more as a burden for the country, compared with just 32% who say immigrants strengthen the country.

Nearly seven-in-ten Republican voters who support Donald Trump (69%) say immigrants burden the country, compared with just 20% who say they strengthen the country. Ted Cruz supporters are 18 points less likely than Trump supporters to hold this view, though by a narrower margin, (51%-36%) more also view immigrants in the U.S. as a burden rather than a strength. By contrast, supporters of John Kasich are roughly as likely to say immigrants strengthen the country (49%) as to say they burden the country (40%).

On the Democratic side, wide majorities of Sanders (82%) and Clinton supporters (78%) say immigrants today do more to strengthen the country rather than burden the country.

Section2_2While a majority of Republican registered voters say immigrants are a burden on the country, a majority (57%) also say there should be a way for undocumented immigrants currently in the country to stay legally, if certain requirements are met; fewer (41%) say undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to stay in the country legally. Among Democratic voters, nearly nine-in-ten (88%) say there should be a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, while 11% say there should not be.

Republicans and Republican leaners who support Donald Trump are split on whether undocumented immigrants currently in the country should be able to stay here legally, if certain requirements are met: 47% say there should be a way for them to stay legally, while 52% say undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to stay in the country legally. Among Republicans who support Ted Cruz (58%-41%) or  John Kasich (75%-24%), more say there should be a way for undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally than say there should not be a way for them to stay in the U.S. legally.

An overwhelming majority of both Bernie Sanders (90%) and Hillary Clinton (87%) supporters say there should be a way for undocumented immigrants currently in the country to stay here legally, if certain requirements are met.

Section2_3Most voters who oppose a way for undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally also support a national effort to deport all undocumented immigrants currently in the country. Those who oppose a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants (25% of all voters) were asked a follow-up question about deportation: A wide majority of those against legal status (19% of all voters) say there should be a national law enforcement effort to deport all immigrants now living in the country illegally. A much smaller share of those against legal status for undocumented immigrants say there should not be a national deportation effort (5% of all voters).

Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, 32% say there should be a national law enforcement effort to deport all immigrants who are now living in the U.S. illegally. Supporters of Donald Trump are the most likely to take this position (42% say this, compared with 30% of Ted Cruz supporters and just 17% of John Kasich supporters).

Section2_4Among Democratic voters, few (8%) think there should be a law enforcement effort to deport all immigrants in the U.S. illegally, with no significant difference between the views of Clinton and Sanders supporters.

About six-in-ten voters (59%) say they oppose building a wall along the entire border with Mexico, while 38% say they are in favor of building a wall. Republican voters back a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border by a 67%-31% margin. By contrast, Democratic voters are broadly opposed: 86% do not want to build a wall along the entire border with Mexico, compared with just 13% who support this.

Among Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters, those who support Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee stand out for their strong support for building a wall along the border. Overall, 84% of Republicans who support Donald Trump favor building a wall along the entire border with Mexico, while just 14% say they are opposed. Most Ted Cruz supporters also favor building a wall, though by a somewhat more modest 64%-32% margin. Among Republican voters who support John Kasich, 53% oppose building a wall, while 45% are in favor.

Among Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, large majorities of those who support Sanders (91%) and Clinton (83%) oppose building a wall along the entire border with Mexico.

The impact of growing diversity in the country today

Section2_5About six-in-ten voters (59%) say an increasing number of people from many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in the U.S. makes the country a better place to live; 31% say increasing diversity does not make much difference either way, while just 8% say increasing diversity makes the U.S. a worse place to live.

Among Republican voters who support Donald Trump, about as many say diversity makes the U.S. a better place to live (39%) as say it doesn’t make a difference (42%); 17% say it makes the U.S. a worse place to live. Ted Cruz supporters are somewhat more likely than Trump supporters to say diversity makes the U.S. a better place to live (48% vs. 39%); 38% of Cruz supporters say diversity doesn’t make a difference, while 11% say it makes the country a worse place to live. Among Republicans who support John Kasich, more say diversity improves life in the U.S. (54%) than say it doesn’t make a difference (35%); just 9% think it makes life in the country worse.

Among Democratic voters, roughly seven-in-ten of both Sanders (73%) and Clinton (72%) supporters say increasing diversity makes the country a better place to live, while about a quarter of both groups say it doesn’t make much difference either way. Hardly any Democratic voters say growing diversity makes the country a worse place to live.

Should U.S. Muslims be subject to additional security scrutiny?

Section2_6Most voters continue to say that Muslims living in the U.S. should not be subject to additional security scrutiny solely because of their religion (61%), while 33% say that they should be subject to more scrutiny than people in other religious groups. Views are unchanged from December of last year. (There was no significant difference in attitudes measured during the first five nights of interviewing – conducted before the March 22 terror attacks in Brussels – and the final six nights of interviewing).

Somewhat more Republican registered voters say the federal government should give U.S. Muslims additional scrutiny because of their religion (53%) than say they should not (41%). The view that Muslims should be subject to additional security scrutiny is most widely held among Republican voters who support Donald Trump: 64% of Trump supporters take this view compared with just 28% who say Muslims should not be subject to additional scrutiny solely because of their religion. Among Republicans who support Ted Cruz, 53% say U.S. Muslims should receive additional scrutiny; 42% say they should not. Most Republicans who support John Kasich (58%) do not think U.S. Muslims should be given additional security scrutiny by the federal government because of their religion, while 37% think that they should be.

Among Democratic voters, large majorities of both Clinton and Sanders supporters oppose additional government scrutiny of U.S. Muslims because of their religion. However, this view is somewhat more widely held among Sanders (85%) than Clinton (75%) supporters.

Views on abortion

Section2_7On the issue of abortion, there continue to be deep divisions along partisan lines. About three-quarters (74%) of Democratic voters say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 23% say it should be illegal in all or most cases. By contrast, 58% of Republican voters say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases; 39% think it should be legal in all or most cases.

Among Republican voters, supporters of Ted Cruz are much more likely than those who support Trump or Kasich to say abortion should be illegal. Nearly three-quarters of Cruz supporters (73%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, compared with 53% of Trump supporters and 50% of Kasich supporters.

Among Democratic voters, there is little difference in the views of Clinton and Sanders supporters: Large majorities of both Sanders (78%) and Clinton (72%) supporters say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Same-sex marriage divides GOP supporters more than Democrats

Section2_8A majority of the public continues to support the legalization of same-sex marriage (57%), as was the case both before and after the Supreme Court decision last June. There remains a wide gap in opinion between partisans, with Democratic registered voters broadly in favor, and a narrow majority of Republican registered voters opposed. Within the Republican Party, there are clear differences in views by primary candidate preference; differences are much more modest within the Democratic Party.

Those who support Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination are overwhelmingly opposed to same-sex marriage. Fully 70% of Cruz backers oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while just a quarter (25%) say they are in favor.

Supporters of Donald Trump hold more mixed views: 52% oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, compared with 38% who favor this. John Kasich backers stand alone on the Republican side in their general support for same-sex marriage: 56% of those who support John Kasich are in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while fewer (37%) are opposed.

On the Democratic side, most Clinton and Sanders supporters express support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, though a larger majority of Sanders supporters (83%) than Clinton supporters (68%) say this.