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How the Media Spins the Immigration Issue

A Commentary by Fran Coombs

Most voters expect biased media coverage of the 2016 presidential race, and the media response to recent immigration comments by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is a good case in point.

Clinton, still by far the leading candidate for next year’s Democratic presidential nomination, said recently that President Obama’s plan to protect up to five million illegal immigrants from immigration doesn’t go far enough. Just this week, the former first lady and secretary of State criticized Republicans for not pushing hard enough for a pathway to citizenship for those already here illegally.

Both of those positions are outside the mainstream as far as most voters are concerned. Only 34% of Likely U.S. Voters favor Obama’s immigration amnesty; 55% are opposed. Sixty-three percent (63%) now think gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States, the highest level of support for more border control since December 2011. Just 30% believe it’s more important to legalize those already living here, the lowest finding in two years.

But other than reporting the comments, media outlets saw no need to challenge Clinton or even ask other candidates for their reaction.

Contrast that reaction with the media firestorm that erupted after Trump noted the high level of criminality among illegal immigrants. Yet as Rasmussen Reports discovered this week, most voters (53%) - and 76% of Republicans - agree with Trump that illegal immigration increases the level of serious crime in America.

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It’s understandable why Democrats would criticize Trump, but Republicans as is often the case were ready to jump through the media’s hoop, too, keeping alive the Trump storyline. Jeb Bush, perhaps the leading GOP presidential contender, among others, quickly distanced himself from Trump’s remarks. Even the chairman of the Republican National Committee, obsessed with the elusive Hispanic vote, now has asked Trump to cool his rhetoric.

Ted Cruz, alone among the Republican hopefuls, has defended Trump for his beliefs – and those held by most voters and the vast majority of GOP voters.

Meanwhile, the Republican candidates have been noticeably silent about Clinton’s out-of-the-mainstream immigration comments.

No wonder despite all the hoopla about big campaign contributions that voters still think by a narrow 48% to 44% margin that media bias is a bigger problem in politics today than big money.

By a two-to-one margin, voters are more likely to think the average reporter is more liberal than they are rather than more conservative.

Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to believe media bias is the bigger problem and that most voters are liberal. Unaffiliated voters fall somewhere in between the two.

Most voters also expect more of the same on the presidential ballot next year: two candidates with whom they have very little in common.

Fewer voters than ever think either major political party has a plan for the nation’s future, with most still convinced that neither represents the American people.

Interestingly, Trump’s comments did draw increased attention to the shooting of a young woman in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant with a long criminal record who has been deported to Mexico several times and come back. He said he was attracted to San Francisco because it is a sanctuary city that does not enforce immigration laws.

Voters have told Rasmussen Reports that the best ways to stop illegal immigration are to impose strong penalties on those who hire illegal immigrants and to end federal funding for sanctuary cities that are violating immigration law.

Clinton joined a chorus of Republicans and other Democrats this week criticizing sanctuary cities in the wake of the San Francisco killing.

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Fran Coombs is the managing editor of Rasmussen Reports.

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See Other Commentaries by Fran Coombs.

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author at fran.coombs@rasmussenreports.com

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