Republicans’ Hard-Line Stance on Immigration May Alienate Millennials for Years

In the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, President Trump doubled down on the restrictive immigration positions that fueled his 2016 presidential campaign. The last few weeks of the campaign, he repeatedly warned Americans about the migrant caravan headed to the United States from Central America, and advocated for the repeal of birthright citizenship. Trump hoped to mobilize Republican voters, thereby helping to elect Republican candidates. Especially in the Senate, this may have helped Republicans gain two seats.

But in the long term, Trump’s anti-immigration approach may alienate millennial voters — and backfire on the Republican Party. The millennial generation, born between 1980 and 1997, is the largest and most diverse adult cohort.

In the midterms, majorities of millennials voted for Democrats. That’s a troubling sign for Republicans

Almost 7 in 10 voters (67 percent) ages 18 to 29, and nearly 6 in 10 (58 percent) of those ages 30 to 44, supported Democratic candidates. That’s mostly the millennial generation. Researchers who study party identification suggest that it’s “sticky” — that the party you vote for in your first few elections tends to harden and become your party for life.

And while a number of issues probably contributed to their votes, their liberal attitudes on immigration may be important.

Demographics are against the long-term success of hard-line immigration policies

The millennial generation is the most diverse adult generation in U.S. history. Hispanics make up 21 percent of all U.S. millennials. My research shows that this diversity contributes to their more progressive and tolerant attitudes toward immigration, compared with older adults.

In my book “The Politics of Millennials,” co-authored with Ashley Ross, we conducted a survey in late 2015 to gauge the generation’s attitudes toward immigrants. The online survey of 1,251 Americans (including an oversample of 621 millennials) was fielded by Qualtrics, with quotas used to make the sample nationally representative. The survey matched U.S. Census figures for gender, race/ethnicity and region, and a weight was employed to calibrate sample so that it equals the general population of age groups.

By Stella M. Rouse for THE WASHINGTON POST
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