In a recent Associated Press-Pew Research Center poll, 17 percent of likely Republican voters in the New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary named illegal immigration as the one issue they want to hear candidates talk about, making it second only to Iraq. In Iowa, where caucuses kick of the presidential nominating season, immigration was the leading issue for 18 percent of Republicans, ahead of Iraq.
The figures are somewhat surprising in New Hampshire, a state of 1.3 million people with a small immigrant population and even smaller illegal one. There were 14,000 more foreign-born residents in the state last year than in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A report last year by the Pew Hispanic Center estimated the state is home to somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 illegal immigrants.
Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said he has believed for a year or so that illegal immigration would be important in the GOP primary because it strikes so many chords. There’s the economic argument: Illegal immigrants are taking jobs from Americans. There’s the legal one: They’re breaking the law. There’s the cultural argument: They’re not assimilating into American culture.”
A sizable majority — an average of 65 percent of voters in those three states [Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania] — said that they would vote for the candidate they agreed with on other issues but not on immigration. But an average of 22 percent said that illegal immigration could be a deal-breaker for them when it comes to voting for a candidate.
That would be a significant number in a close election. Most interesting is that 27 percent of independents — the key swing voters who decide elections — say immigration could turn them away from a candidate, more than either Democrats or Republicans.
Democrat voters, on the other hand, are content to live in their made-up land of Bush Derangement Syndromeville and cast their votes from that warped perspective.