New polling data from NPR Illinois and the University of Illinois Springfield shows Illinois registered voters are sharply split on whether immigrants help or hurt the state.
The divisions can be seen among race, age, geography and education. Those most likely to say “help" are blacks (72%) and Latinos (79%), people with at least a bachelor’s degree (74%), and those from Cook County (69%).
The opposite end of those demographics are significantly less likely to say immigrants help the state, including whites (51%), people with a high school diploma or less (54%), and those from downstate (47%).
But the most pronounced divide is by party: 75 percent of Democrats say immigrants help, while among Republicans that number is just 34 percent.
“I guess I’d be in the 34 percent,” former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar said in an interview. “The Republican Party in Illinois, which is already in the minority, will be even more in the minority in the future if we are perceived to be anti-immigration.”
This was once on its way to becoming dogma in the Republican Party. National party officials issued an “autopsy” report after Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential election loss that urged a more immigrant-conscious GOP. President Donald Trump, however, went the other way, using immigration as a wedge by which he could secure the Republican nomination.
“From a purely political point of view, I think if the Republican Party are perceived to be anti-immigration, then it will hurt, particularly in a state like Illinois where we’re already behind,” Edgar said.
Illinois Republican Party spokesman Joe Hackler took issue with the mingling of legal and illegal immigration in the survey.
“What many other national polls have shown is that the vast majority of Republicans support legal immigration and giving children brought to this country through no fault of their own some sort of legal protection,” Hackler said in a statement. “That is where the Illinois Republican Party stands as well. We celebrate our state's diversity and the vitality legal immigrants bring to many communities.”
The survey did ask about people brought to the U.S. as children — known as ”dreamers” after the proposed DREAM Act. On the question of whether to allow them to remain in the U.S., just 50 percent of Republicans support the idea. That’s well below the overall statewide support of 73 percent.
The 2019 Illinois Issues Survey used an online panel of 1,012 Illinois registered voters and ran from Sept. 13-23, 2019. It was designed and analyzed by the Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies; the Survey Research Office; and NPR Illinois — all units of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership.