Donald Trump jumped into the Republican presidential primary contest last week with some incendiary comments about immigrants. After his entrance he shot to second in the polls. Some claim this means GOP voters favor an anti-immigration candidate, but the vast majority still prefers pro-immigration candidates.

Most of the GOP field is pro-immigration. Scott Walker and Rick Santorum are the only other candidates who have called for reductions in legal immigration. All of the others have all called for more legal immigration.

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham all support comprehensive reform. Rand Paul says “the best antidote for illegal immigration is legal immigration.” Texans Rick Perry and Ted Cruz would let in more skilled workers. Ben Carson wants a guest-worker program. Bobby Jindal sees a “need to increase the number of people coming in through the front door.” Mike Huckabee has “no problem” with immigrant labor “as long as it’s legal.” The others favor expanding legal ways for workers and families to stay.

Overall the percentage of Republican voters supporting anti-immigration candidates is just 19 percent in the last five national polls. Seventy-four percent favor the pro-immigration side of the field. Did Trump’s entrance make a difference? Not much. In the two polls since Trump’s entrance, 75 percent favored the immigration proponents; 22 percent favored opponents.


Despite the headlines, Republicans haven’t suddenly gone anti-immigration or lost their minds over Trump. In fact, despite his second-place position, GOP primary voters in New Hampshire don’t even have Trump in the top 10 candidates they would allow in a debate. Far more view him unfavorably than favorably.

Polls consistently find that Republican voters favor legal status for established unauthorized immigrants. A Pew Research Center poll last month found that 56 percent of Republicans take that position. Another poll in June found that this is also true in early primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

As I showed in my recent report on public views on immigration, Republicans are especially favorable to legal immigrants here to work. Asked about immigrant workers or a guest-worker program, a survey of all polls on the topic taken between 2001 and 2014 reveals that an average of 60 percent of Republicans answer favorably.

Donald Trump is currently taking advantage of a diverse and divided field, but his popularity is limited by his anti-immigration stance. Other candidates are wisely playing the long-game and supporting immigrants.