Oct 31, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Most Republicans support border barriers even if they injure or kill someone

Buoy barriers with blades are seen situated in the Rio Grande on September 11, 2023 in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Buoy barriers with blades in the Rio Grande on Sept. 11 in Eagle Pass, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A vast majority of Republicans say they support installing deterrents such as razor wire and floating barriers in rivers to prevent immigrants from entering the country illegally, even if people are endangered or killed, a new survey finds.

Why it matters: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is locked in a legal fight with the Biden administration to keep razor wires and buoy barriers with blades along the U.S.-Mexico border amid a surge in the number of migrants attempting to enter the country.

  • At least one body has been found caught in the buoy barriers, and dozens of migrants have been treated for injuries from razor wire, according to the Houston Chronicle.
  • The Biden administration says the barriers violate federal law, pose danger and undermine the president's border strategy.
  • Abbott and other Republicans say the Biden administration is not doing enough to address an influx of migrants, most of them attempting to enter the U.S. through Texas.

By the numbers: About 77% of Republicans said they favor installing deterrents such as walls, razor wire and deadly buoy barriers, according to a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Brookings Institution.

  • Just 15% Democrats and 44% of independents said the same.
  • Overall, 52% of Americans oppose installing deterrents, while 44% said they support them.

Between the lines: Republicans have stepped up rhetoric and floated several restrictive immigration policies as more migrants and asylum seekers from Central and South America attempt to enter the U.S.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the political arm to get more Republicans elected to the U.S. House, said in a statement to Axios Latino that the survey showed that the GOP was in better position to tackle border security.

  • "Extreme Democrats balk at any effort to secure the border and halt terrorist-linked illegal immigrants or the flood of deadly fentanyl. Their attitude puts Americans' lives at risk," NRCC National Press Secretary Will Reinert said in a statement.
  • There is no evidence any terrorists or suspected terrorists have entered the U.S. through the Southern border.

Zoom out: Nearly 38% of Americans said they believed in "white replacement theory," according to the survey.

  • That's a decades-old racist notion that immigrants are invading the U.S. and people of color are purposely replacing white people in politics and the economy.
  • While Democrats have become less likely to agree with this idea than they were in the past (from 20% in 2019 to 15% now), independents are now more likely to agree (31% in 2019 to 37% now).
  • 65% of percent of Republicans believe in the white replacement theory, about the same as in 2019.

What they're saying: "I think we're seeing more frustration with the kinds of border policies in the U.S., but we also are seeing more divisions," said Robert P. Jones, president and founder of PRRI, tells Axios.

  • He added that the survey results indicate white Christian Americans in particular have a sense of entitlement and ownership in the United States because many believe the U.S. was founded for European Christians.
  • Jones blamed in part Trump's increasingly violent rhetoric about immigrants for the rise of harshening opinions about immigration.

Of note: The same survey also found that nearly a quarter of Americans agree that "patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country" — the most in the nearly three years since President Biden took office.

Methodology: The American Values Survey was conducted online between Aug. 25-30. The poll is based on a representative sample of 2,525 adults (age 18 and older) living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia who are part of Ipsos' Knowledge Panel®.

  • The margin of sampling error is +/- 2.19 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample.

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