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Professors Say Harder Line on Immigration May Play into Election Success

Immigration is a top issue among voters ahead of the 2024 election season, according to professors at California State University, Northridge.

Dr. Linda Alvarez, an associate professor of political science, and Dr. Axel Montepeque, an associate professor of modern and classical languages and literatures, noted that border security is increasingly a concern among voters as reflected in Gallup polling, presidential approval ratings, and campaign strategies.

Dr. Linda AlvarezDr. Linda Alvarez“A centerpiece of [former President Donald] Trump’s successful 2016 campaign was border security, and his 2024 campaign thus far has only continued this trend, albeit with even more emboldened anti-immigrant rhetoric than in the past,” said Alvarez, noting that immigration has historically been a politically divisive issue in the U.S.

Montepeque said the Republican Party has been successful in presenting President Joe Biden as responsible for the recent high numbers of migrant encounters along the southern border of the continental U.S. — this, as Biden tries to manage a balance in projecting a strong response to the crisis against internal division over immigration within the Democratic Party.

A consistent 27% of Americans say the most important problem facing the U.S. is immigration, according to Gallup.

The professors said other contributing factors include Biden’s actions since taking office in 2020, such as record-high migrant encounters, at 302,000 in December 2023, and historic levels of border apprehensions, at 2.2 million in 2022. They noted the squashed bipartisan immigration bill, on which former President Trump lobbied Republicans to vote against the legislation because its success could help Biden in the November election.

Alvarez said, “the Republican strategy of bussing over 100,000 migrants to major U.S. cities, which has made the issue more visible and immediate to Americans, leading to heightened concerns and higher disapproval rates compared to previous cycles.”

Alvarez said a hardline stance by Biden could resonate with a broader spectrum of moderates and independents. “The direction Biden takes on undocumented immigration and border security will shape his chances of winning the election,” she said.

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