IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Republicans back Trump on family separations, but US mainstream doesn't

Americans at large aren't buying what the White House is selling on separating immigrant children from their families.
US President Donald Trump tries to listen to a question as walks on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House in Washington from Cleveland, Ohio, on...

Donald Trump generally assumes that the American public strongly supports his presidency and his agenda, even when there's ample evidence to the contrary. With this in mind, the president will almost certainly want to ignore the latest polling on his policy separating immigrant children from their families at the border.

A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday, for example, suggests Americans at large aren't buying what the White House is selling.

American voters oppose 66 - 27 percent the policy of separating children and parents when families illegally cross the border into America, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. [...]"When does public opinion become a demand that politicians just can't ignore? Two- thirds of American voters oppose the family separation policy at our borders," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "Neither quotes from the Bible nor get-tough talk can soften the images of crying children nor reverse the pain so many Americans feel."

A CNN poll released soon after offered nearly identical results: 67% of American disapprove of the policy, while 28% support it.

An analysis from Chris Warshaw, a political scientist at George Washington University, found that Trump's family-separation policy is now the least popular federal policy in recent memory -- with lower support than the Republicans' tax cuts for the wealthy, the Republican plan to take health care benefits from millions of families, and even the president's idea for a giant border wall.

There is, however, a catch: the American mainstream appears largely repulsed by the White House's policy, but Trump's base feels quite differently: 55% of self-identified Republican voters in the Quinnipiac poll said they approve of the president separating immigrant children from their families. In the CNN poll, the number was slightly higher: 58% of GOP voters back the policy.

And for this president, who sometimes acts as if he believes his core supporters are the only Americans who really count, it's entirely possible this effectively ends the conversation. Trump probably doesn't much care what Democratic and independent voters think, so long as he impresses his base.

But congressional Republicans, many of whom are deeply concerned about their re-election prospects, know better. The Washington Examiner  reported overnight:

Senior Republicans on Monday warned President Trump that forcibly separating migrant children from their illegal-immigrant parents was a political loser that could cost the party control of Congress in the midterm elections. [...][T]op Republicans are decrying the policy as cruel and immoral, with GOP strategists ringing alarm bells about the steep political risks to the party's standing in November -- especially its precarious 24-seat majority -- if it isn't reversed quickly.

At a certain level, the polls and politics seem irrelevant. This story isn't about who's up, who's down, or who might see fluctuations in his or her approval rating. It's about those families and whether the United States is going to tolerate Donald Trump's abusive policies.

That said, while this is very much a human problem, there's a political solution, which is more likely to happen when politicians feel election-year pressure to act.

And right now, a whole lot of GOP lawmakers realize that the Republican base won't be alone at the ballot box in November.