by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Immigration has emerged as a weak point for President Joe Biden as he presides over one of the largest migrant surges at the southern border in years, a crisis showing little sign of abating.
More than 172,000 migrants rushed the border last month alone, based on government apprehension statistics. That number included nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors. While the White House has blamed a number of different factors for the border problem — weather, conditions in the migrants’ home countries, the reality of occasional surges that happen under presidents of both parties — the Biden administration has conceded that the “hope” created by its approach to immigration policy has played a role.
As a result, Biden’s job approval ratings on immigration and the border considerably lag his numbers on other major issues. A recent poll by the Associated Press and the NORC center for Public Affairs Research found that only 24% of adults approved of how Biden has handled the flood of young migrants, compared to 40% who disapproved.
Even among Democrats, the split was 44% who approved to 40% who neither approved nor disapproved. Two-thirds of Republicans disapproved.
On border security more generally, 55% disapproved of how Biden was performing his job to 44% who approved. On immigration, the numbers were 56% disapproval to 42% approval. This is a stark reversal of the president’s overall approval rating in the same poll: 61% approve, 38% disapprove.
For Republicans, this could be an opening to undercut confidence in the Biden administration’s competence beyond the border. Right now, there is strong approval for his handling of both COVID-19 and the economy, two issues Democratic operatives maintained would decide their success ahead of next year’s midterm elections, as Biden piles up multitrillion spending bills.
GOP attitudes on immigration appear to be hardening.