By Jon Dougherty
Republicans have claimed for years that most immigrants tend to support Democrats in elections when they are able to legally vote (and when they vote illegally as well), but a new study by a researcher from the University of Alabama substantiates that belief.
What’s more, barring the kind of immigration moratorium imposed by the U.S. in the 1920s, the Republican Party is heading for permanent minority status.
In a research paper titled, “Immigration Status, Immigrant Family Ties, and Support for the Democratic Party,” researcher George Hawley used data from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study to determine immigrant voting patterns and whether ” immigration status itself is a predictor of Democratic Party afﬁliation and vote choice, even controlling for other attributes.
After creating “single- and multilevel models of party afﬁliation and vote choice” using the Harvard CCES model, Hawley found that “immigration status was a statistically signiﬁcant and substantively important predictor of Democratic afﬁliation.”
Hawley also noted that the same was true for children and grandchildren of immigrants, but that ties to the Donkey Party “weakened over multiple generations.”
The researcher noted that during the 2016 campaign, then-GOP contender and eventually GOP nominee Donald Trump ran an “aggressively nativist” campaign, and in doing so beat the oddsmakers by winning substantially more electoral votes than his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton.
But Clinton’s vote majority is a sign of things to come for the Republican Party if current demographic trends continue such as mass immigration.
For now, Hawley said, Republicans hold the White House, a decent majority in the Senate and a majority of state legislatures. That, he said, likely won’t be the case for much longer given demographic trends.
“It has become conventional wisdom that the growing immigrant population, and the resulting large nonwhite population more generally, will eventually usher in a new period of Democratic hegemony,” he wrote.
“If voting patterns remain unchanged, and the GOP remains predominantly dependent on native-born non-Hispanic white voters, it will soon ﬁnd itself unable to win in an increasing number of states and districts,” said Hawley.
Demographic patterns since changes to immigration law were made in the 1960s, coupled with mass migration over the last decade, have dramatically altered the ethnicity of the United States, the researcher noted.
From 1965 to 2015, nearly 59 million people immigrated to the U.S., and as of 2014, more than 40 million Americans — nearly 13 percent of the population — were born outside of the country.
Although the United States has experienced waves of immigration before, the current large-scale migration differs in two ways: its extraordinary duration and its sources. Previous waves of immigrants derived predominantly from Europe. The last signiﬁcant period of European immigration ended in the 1920s when restrictive new immigration policies were implemented. Changes to the immigration laws in 1965 both opened up the United States to large-scale immigration and removed the legal biases in favor of Europeans. As a result, the number of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa increased substantially. These new immigrants, combined with the low birthrate among non-Hispanic whites, have set the nation on a path toward having no single racial majority.
Besides immigrant status alone, other factors influence why more immigrants become supporters of the Democratic Party, including their minority status, being Latino, and generational support for the party in general.
Hawley also notes that previous studies have indicated that so-called “Republican hostility” towards immigrants in the form of immigration reform proposals and immigration control legislation may have also driven support for the Democrat Party.
“If this is true, then there is an easy solution to the GOP’s demographic problem: abandon its traditional restrictionist position and embrace liberalizing immigration reforms,” he writes.
However, there are reasons to be “skeptical” of that approach, the research notes further. First, data indicating that Latinos — the largest immigrant group — are more “socially conservative” indicate that is largely true among non-citizen and, thus, non-voting Hispanic segments of the population. Also, among Hispanic Americans, social conservatism is fading, according to other research.
“When these people are disregarded, the number of Latinos who could potentially be swayed by Republican stances on social issues becomes much smaller. To make matters worse for Republicans, the same variables that predict Latinos will become part of the electoral process predict that Latinos will support the Democratic Party,” Hawley writes.
In addition, he notes that liberalizing immigration policies would likely not sit well with the GOP’s base of voters and certainly not with POTUS Trump’s base.
Immigration has “important political consequences” for the United States over “multiple generations,” Hawley writes in his conclusions.
Based on variables and data examined, Hawley notes:
Immigrants, their children, and their grandchildren are all more likely than Americans without close immigrant relatives to support the Democratic Party, and this remains true even when a large number of other variables are held constant. This is important because in the coming decades the percentage of Americans with immigrant parents and grandparents will continue to increase.
He notes that this will leave the GOP in a “quandary.”
“Although Donald Trump was able to narrowly win a national election by appealing to the GOP’s base and marginally increasing his share of the native-born, non-Hispanic white vote in a few key states, this will become increasingly difficult in future election cycles,” Hawley writes.
The solution is clear, but it comes with risk.
“One possible way to forestall the Republican Party’s demographic problems would be to immediately reduce the amount of immigration to the United States,” notes the researcher. “However, such a strategy might only further alienate the immigrants who are already in the country, as well as the children and grandchildren of existing immigrants.”
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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