Donald Trump's immigration policies were a hit in the primary season — but as many expected, they're broadly and almost uniformly unpopular with general election voters. The latest evidence: the new CNN poll.

  • While Trump favors an enforcement-first approach, Americans prefer by a 51-to-36 margin to first deal with the illegal immigrants already in this country.
  • Just 30 percent say the government should deport all immigrants living illegally in the country.
  • Americans oppose Trump's border wall, 58 percent to 41 percent.
  • About three-quarters (74 percent) doubt that Trump can actually get Mexico to pay for the wall along the southern border, despite his regular assurances that it would.
  • Previous polling has shown clear opposition to Trump's plan to ban Muslim immigration.

And despite it all, the very same CNN poll shows that the immigration issue is basically a wash. While 49 percent say Hillary Clinton would make a better president on immigration, 47 percent prefer Trump.


A caveat here: The CNN poll is a particularly good one for Trump; it shows him leading the race by one point after weeks of trailing in most polls. Previous polling has shown Clinton with more of an advantage on the issue of immigration. (Washington Post-ABC News polling, in fact, has recently shown Clinton with a double-digit lead on the issue.)

But even if the CNN poll is something of an outlier, the contradiction in these immigration numbers is evident. Americans dislike Trump's specific immigration policies by large margins, but their objections don't give Clinton as much of an advantage as you might think they would.

And, in fact, it bears emphasizing that the poll was conducted at a time when Trump's hard-line immigration stance was very much in the news. It was conducted starting the day after he doubled down on a massive enforcement increase in a fiery speech. If there was a time in which Trump's immigration policies were going to finally do him in, as Democrats believe they should and much of the coverage of Trump's speech seemed to suggest, it probably should have shown up in this poll.

And yet the opposite seems to have happened.

Of course, by the same token, this is arguably Trump's signature issue as a candidate — the one he has been talking about since his campaign launch. He has repeatedly brought onstage the families of victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants to drive home the point that undocumented immigrants can be dangerous and must be dealt with.

Despite his effort to highlight this issue and make it his campaign theme, he's only fighting to a draw on his best day, and that's not a great sign.

Perhaps what's really happening here is that immigration simply isn't that big an issue for many Americans. The Fix's Philip Bump pointed to new Washington Post/Survey Monkey data that suggests that is very much the case. Maybe the Trump-Clinton numbers on immigration are simply mirroring the overall race, more or less.

But for as much hand-wringing as there has been from some quarters about how Trump might be missing an opportunity and hurting himself in November by not moderating on immigration, this poll paints a different picture. We'll see what other polls show in the weeks ahead.