May 5, 2024 - Politics & Policy

The GOP's deep generational split on immigration

Share of Republicans who say they agree with the following statements about immigration
Data: The Harris Poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

Young Republicans are notably more moderate on immigration than the elders in their party, according to an Axios Vibes survey by The Harris Poll.

Why it matters: The Trump-led GOP has embraced a hardline stance on immigration, but younger party members are more skeptical of the GOP's political narratives on the subject.

  • Gen Z Republicans are more likely to support more legal immigration pathways.
  • They're more likely to question negative narratives about immigrants than older generations, the survey found.
  • They're less likely than boomer and Gen X Republicans to back some of Trump's most aggressive plans to crack down on illegal immigration.

By the numbers: Most Republicans in the older generation did not feel that media often portrays immigrants negatively or unfairly, while 63% of Gen Z said that it does.

  • Less than half of the younger Republican age group said they would want mass deportations of undocumented immigrants and closing the border down entirely.
  • Around three quarters of Republican Gen X and boomer respondents expressed support for those same Trump plans.

Zoom in: Even where a significant majority of Republicans in Gen Z agree with those in Generation X and the boomer generation, a closer look often reveals they agree less emphatically.

  • Only 33% of Gen Z Republicans "strongly" agreed that illegal immigration is unfair to immigrant who come legally, vs. 70% in older generations.
  • Just 28% of Gen Z felt strongly that immigrants' character is worse today than 50 years ago, about half of the older age group.

The other side: Gen Z Republicans are still more concerned about immigration overall than their peers of other political identities.

  • 63% said illegal immigration is a problem for U.S. communities, compared to 39% of Gen Z Democrats.
  • 61% of Gen Z Republicans believe illegal immigration is linked to crime spikes, compared to 45% of Gen Z Democrats.

The bottom line: Republicans have largely moved the political and policy discussion around the border to the right, with lawmakers embracing once-fringe ideas such as involving the military.

  • But the survey shows younger Republicans may not be fully bought in.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to note that 33% of Gen Z Republicans say illegal immigration is unfair to those who come legally, not illegally.

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