A new Pew Research Center poll finds Americans broadly rejecting many of Donald Trump’s views on immigration, at a time when Trump is striking a markedly different tone on the issue to make inroads with minority voters and turn around depressed poll numbers generally.
Large majorities of those surveyed said they think undocumented immigrants fill jobs that U.S. citizens do not want, are as honest and hardworking as U.S. citizens and are no more likely than citizens to commit serious crimes — sound rebukes of Trump’s rhetoric on immigration.
Even some of Trump’s own supporters reported positive views of undocumented immigrants on some issues. They expressed negative views of undocumented immigrants on other issues, including whether they commit more violent crimes than U.S. citizens.
A majority of those surveyed also rejected one of Trump’s signature policies: building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has vowed to get Mexico to pay for the wall, and the proposal has become such a big part of Trump’s presidential campaign that supporters chant “build the wall” at his rallies.
Sixty-one percent of those surveyed by Pew are opposed to building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The proposal has far more support from Republicans and GOP-leaning independents — 63 percent favor it — while 84 percent of Democrats oppose it.
But the poll shows that support for building a border barrier has declined since Trump made it a centerpiece of his campaign. In September 2015, 48 percent of those surveyed by Pew opposed building a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Support for a border fence fell to 38 percent in March, when 34 percent supported a wall in a separate question. In the latest survey, 36 percent support building a wall along the entire border.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the findings.
Other polls also have found a drop in support for the border wall. Rand Corp.’s Presidential Election Panel Survey found that 48 percent of those surveyed in December and January supported a border wall; the same people were asked again in July and August, and support had dipped to 38 percent.
The Pew survey finds that support for building a border wall remains high among Trump supporters, at 79 percent.
The survey findings come as Trump this week shifted his tone on immigration, asserting that he may be open to “softening” laws to benefit the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the United States. Trump also said this week he would enforce current law and follow the policies of President Obama, though “perhaps with a lot more energy.”
The Pew survey of 2,010 adults finds a 45 percent plurality of those queried — along with 45 percent of Republicans surveyed — who say both a path to citizenship for those here illegally and border security should be given equal priority when dealing with illegal immigration. Trump has said that undocumented immigrants have “got to go” and that he would create a “deportation force.”
Trump’s characterizations of undocumented immigrants were also soundly rejected in the poll.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said at his campaign kickoff speech in June 2015.
“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards, and they tell us what we’re getting,” Trump said.
Pew’s poll shows that a large majority of those surveyed — 76 percent — think that undocumented immigrants are as hardworking and honest as U.S. citizens. Sixty-five percent of Republicans surveyed said they believe this, along with 86 percent of Hispanics.
Among Trump supporters, 1 in 3 said undocumented immigrants in the United States are not as honest and hardworking as U.S. citizens.
Overall, 71 percent of those queried — and more than 6 in 10 Republicans surveyed — said undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs that U.S. citizens do not want.
Among those who said they strongly favor Trump, 41 percent said they think undocumented immigrants mostly fill jobs that U.S. citizens would want.
Trump has repeatedly asserted that crime is surging and that this is because of illegal immigration, a claim that is unsupported. He has appeared at rallies and on television with the loved ones of people killed by undocumented immigrants.
One of them, Jamiel Shaw, whose son was killed in 2008 by a gang member who was in the United States illegally, spoke at the Republican National Convention. Trump also points to the case of Kate Steinle, a 31-year-old shot and killed on a busy San Francisco pier by an undocumented immigrant and repeat felon who had been deported five times.
The survey shows that a large majority of people do not agree with Trump’s assertions that undocumented immigrants commit more violent crimes. Two-thirds of those surveyed said that undocumented immigrants are no more likely than U.S. citizens to commit serious crimes.
But there is a partisan rift on the issue. Four in 5 Democrats surveyed said undocumented immigrants are no more likely than citizens to commit serious crimes, compared with just more than half of the Republicans. But a smaller 42 percent of Republicans said they think undocumented immigrants are more likely than U.S. citizens to commit serious crimes. Half of Trump’s supporters say undocumented immigrants are more prone to commit crimes, a number that rises to 59 percent among those who support Trump “strongly.”
According to a Gallup poll released Wednesday, 38 percent said the number of immigrants allowed into the United States should be reduced, an uptick from 34 percent last year.
Scott Clement contributed to this report.