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Exclusive poll: Trump's iron wall of defense

Data: SurveyMonkey online poll conducted August 1–3, 2018 among a total sample of 2,421 adults living in the United States. Margins of error at the 95% confidence level are ±3 percentage points for Total, ±9.5 for African-American women, ±6 for Age 18–34, ±7 for Suburban white women, ±10 for “Never Hillary” Independent voters, and ±6 for Rural; Poll methodology; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

There's an almost perfect match between President Trump's approval ratings on immigration — including his overall policies and his proposed border wall — and his job approval rating, according to the latest Axios/SurveyMonkey poll of five voter groups' views in the midterm elections.

Between the lines: The fact that his job approval rating (44%) is so closely aligned with his immigration numbers suggests that Trump's immigration policies play a huge role in how the public sees his presidency. If they're with him on immigration, they're with him on everything. And his wall of defense is rural voters — the only one of the five key voter groups that's sticking with him.

  • Rural voters are giving Trump rock-solid backing on his overall immigration policy, as well as his signature issue: his proposed border wall. Their views are at odds with the majorities who disapprove of his policies in both cases.

A closer look, however, shows that a couple of key voting groups are more closely split over Trump's promised border wall.

  • "Never Hillary" independent voters narrowly lean against the policy, with 48% favoring and 50% opposing — well within the margin of error.
  • White suburban women are more skeptical of the wall, opposing it 54% to 44%.
  • DACA, an Obama-era policy that gives deportation protection to undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children, has more universal support. That includes rural voters, who back the policy 61% to 35%.

Rural voters are most likely to support Trump's policies that have cracked down on both legal and illegal immigration, but rural areas also have the smallest percentage of foreign born, according to the Pew Research Center. Immigrants tend to live and work in urban and increasingly suburban areas.

Why it matters: In July, immigration became the top choice for voters as "the most important problem" facing the U.S., according to a Gallup survey, jumping 8 percentage points from June. The increase comes around the same time the Trump administration faced widespread criticism for its "zero-tolerance" policy, which led to thousands of migrant children separated from their parents.

The big picture: We've seen many politicians use immigration in campaigns, but they offer starkly different solutions. Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made "abolish ICE" a key tenet of her primary win in New York, while GOP Rep. Martha McSally has touted building a wall and stronger enforcement of immigration law in the Arizona Senate race.

The b0ttom line: Three months out from midterm elections, more than half of voters disapprove of Trump's immigration policies, support DACA and oppose building a border wall along the southwest border. This means the only key group he can try to bring to the polls in November is rural voters — while Democrats can focus on turning out everyone else.

What to watch: We'll be revisiting these groups and their views on different topics each week in the run-up to November's votes.

Methodology: This analysis is based on SurveyMonkey online surveys conducted Aug. 1-3 among 2,421 adults in the United States. The modeled error estimate  for the full sample is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. Sample sizes and modeled error estimates for the subgroups are as follows:

African-American Women (n=110, +/- 9.5), Millennials Age 18 - 34  (n=465, +/- 6), White Suburban Women  (n=441 , +/- 7), NeverHillary/Independent voters  (n= 151, +/- 10 ), Rural  (n= 553, +/- 6). Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. More information about our methodology here. Crosstabs available here.

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