In the second installment of our Beyond the Ballot research series, Resurgent Republic sponsored four focus groups on immigration reform with Republican primary voters in Des Moines, Iowa, and Greenville, South Carolina. These Republican voters self-identified as conservatives and said they regularly vote in Republican primaries.

Resurgent Republic has done extensive public opinion research on the challenges and opportunities Republicans face among the Hispanic community. Majorities of Latino voters in swing states believe the Republican Party does not respect their values and concerns, according to our post-election analysis. This opinion results from rhetoric from a small, but vocal, number of Republicans that has characterized past immigration debates.

President Obama’s reelection victory, and Republicans’ shrinking support among non-white voters, has been a seminal moment for conservatives. That is why we felt it important to qualitatively gauge Republican primary voters on this issue. Previous Resurgent Republic research makes it clear that immigration reform should not be viewed as a one-step panacea guaranteeing Republican inroads among Hispanic voters. Yet it is a critically important step in a long-term effort. The following are key highlights, and be sure to read our complete focus group analysis:

– These Republican base voters strongly support legal immigration. Regardless of their individual positions on immigration reform, Republicans should open any discussion on this issue highlighting the benefits legal immigration brings to America.

– Immigration reform is not on the radar of the Republican base. They are following this issue from a distance, so Republicans seeking to pass broad based immigration policies need to make the case as to why this is necessary.

– Participants agree that mass deportation of undocumented immigrants would create more problems than it solves and they cite logistical, economic, moral, and social concerns with doing so.
Securing the border is foundational before implementing an earned citizenship process.

– In order to be acceptable for Republican primary voters, any potential pathway to citizenship should be defined as a lengthy, rigid, and workable process that results in an earned status. It does not absolve wrongdoing.
Solutions addressing undocumented immigrants should be presented in the context of alternatives. There are no easy fixes and Republican voters oppose giving President Obama carte blanche authority on this issue.

Resurgent Republic
3/28/13