Republican pollster Whit Ayres wants everyone to know that GOP primary voters actually support immigration reform. In an interview with the Washington Post Ayres says:
“Our research has shown that roughly one third of Republican primary voters will never support a path to citizenship no matter what the conditions. But two thirds will support a path to citizenship as long as the conditions are strict and rigorous.”
On the face of it you read that quote and think great we meet one or two conditions and we’re set. Here’s the thing, what the conditions that Republican voters want met may have nothing to do with reality for two reasons. One, they may be impossible to meet (i.e. militarizing the border or making sure no one enters the country illegally before we proceed with reform) either logistically or politically. Second, Republican voters may not ever believe they are being met even if they are.
The second one is particularly a problem because if you have people who are opposed to reform under any circumstance than they are just going to keep repeating the message that the border can’t or won’t get secured. For proof of this let’s look at Senator McCain engaging with a friendly voter (the fun starts around 1:10):
No matter what McCain said that guy and other people in the room were not going to believe him about border security. All the facts, figures, and data couldn’t cut through that guy’s guy level feeling. There a large number of Republicans like that guy who say “yeah, if you can fix the border citizenship is fine” but they don’t believe the border’s ever getting fixed so they’ll never support immigration reform.
For someone like Rubio in 2016 this is going to be a real problem. He’s going to go into an environment where people like Cruz and Rand Paul have a vested interest in making sure people stay angry about immigration because they’ll take that anger out by not supporting Rubio or other pro-reform candidates.
So Whit Ayres can take all the polls he wants, you should still believe the hype about GOP voters and immigration.