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Swing Districts Swinging Back On Border Security

CNN wondered aloud yesterday if Nancy Pelosi’s intractable opposition to the President’s border security compromise will backfire on some Freshman Democrats from swing districts. A poll from Public Opinion Strategies released yesterday supports the idea that this may be accurate. Pelosi might be putting recent gains that gave her the House majority at risk.

In a poll commissioned by the RNC, the firm assessed voter opinions in 10 congressional districts identified as swing districts. Specifically, these are districts won by the President in 2016, that elected Democrats to Congress.

The poll was constructed to test specific messaging about border security. The ideas are more in depth than the polls that say simply ask if voters support a “wall”. The messages get into the nuances of the debate. The results should terrify Speaker Pelosi.

A majority of voters in these districts (54%) approve of President Trump’s policies. This number increases when voters are asked specifically about border security. They support the President’s policy at an astonishing 61%.

When asked about the current situation at the border the poll found the following information:

  • Fully 52% of voters agree that “the current situation at the border between the United States and Mexico represents a national security threat to the US.
  • By a 53%-43% margin, voters in these DEM-held congressional districts support “building a border wall or barrier to improve security between the US and Mexico.”

Voters in swing districts also feel Democrats should have accepted Trump’s compromise at a rate of 50% to 43%. They also saw the President as more willing to compromise than congressional Democrats.

The results also find the more information voters have, the more likely they are to support the President. Information about the effectiveness of barriers at the border where they already exist swayed respondents. Specifically, the survey used the barrier between Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas as an example. This was new information for many participants.

Additional messages that were tested include:

  • 89% of Border Patrol agents feel barriers are necessary to secure the border
  • The support of Democrats in the past for border security, specifically barriers.
  • Information regarding the cost of the shutdown exceeding the cost of the President’s entire border security package
  • The fact the cost of the barrier the President is asking for is equal to one-tenth of one percent of the Federal budget.

Following the messaging, voter support shifted dramatically.

Graph from Public Opinion Strategies report on the attitudes of swing district voters before and presented with messaging on border security

With these results, it is probably wise to assume that a number of these messages will be incorporated into the President’s State of the Union address. Voters, especially in swing districts, need more information, not less. For example, when respondents were provided with information about drug trafficking and human trafficking in addition to illegal immigration, they were more likely to see border security as an issue of national security.

A caution to the President is that he needs to focus on policy, not personality. While pointing out Speaker Pelosi’s irrational objections to his border security plan is necessary, he must stay focused.

His job approval rating in these districts has 49% of respondents approving of the job he is doing while 48% disapprove. Yet when the specifics of his policies are presented, voter support goes up significantly. This indicates voters are still very focused on his behavior, not his ideas or accomplishments.

It is imperative that he maintains the even tone he used in his recent national addresses every time he is in front of a camera or speaking with a reporter. It’s not too late for him to become more “Presidential” and capitalize on the support for his specific policies.


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