2018 Midterm Lessons: Pennsylvania and Colorado Surveys Show Voter Backlash to Trump’s Immigration Playbook

WASHINGTON, DC- President Trump made immigration the focal point of the midterms and made clear that he believes “it is going to be an election about the caravan.” From Lou Barletta and Scott Wagner in Pennsylvania, to Walker Stapleton in Colorado, and a whole host of House and legislative races, new findings show the majority of voters roundly rejected Trump’s playbook of anti-immigrant political stunts and rhetoric.

Trump’s immigration policies and language were largely echoed by Republican candidates. They ran almost 300,000 anti-immigrant ads, spending over one hundred million dollars. The electoral results demonstrate an increasingly growing American electorate choosing pro-immigrant candidates over those employing Trump’s immigration strategy.

Today, the Immigration Hub released two new polls, conducted by Global Strategy Group, of voters in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Colorado. Similar to voters across the nation, the surveys found that a majority of Pennsylvania and Colorado voters were not galvanized or convinced by rhetoric on the caravan or sanctuary cities.

According to Nick Gourevitch, Partner at Global Strategy Group, “New polling we conducted in the immediate aftermath of the election shows that Trump’s anti-immigrant focus backfired with voters in Pennsylvania and Colorado. Voters found that Republican candidate alignment with Trump on immigration was more of a reason to vote against those candidates than to vote for them, including with politically important groups like Independents in Colorado and voters in Pennsylvania who voted for Trump in 2016 and shifted to Bob Casey in 2018.”

The Immigration Hub also commissioned Change Research to conduct an additional online survey of 525 likely voters in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District. The survey found that majority of CD-6 voters rejected President Trump’s recent political ploys on immigration, including his anti-immigrant ad centered on the migrant caravan. In fact, 62 percent of women and 71 percent of Hispanics were less likely to support Trump’s immigration policies after watching his caravan ad. (View the rest of the results here.)

“Trump made this election about immigration and the caravan, and it backfired for the Republican Party,” adds Tyler Moran, Director of the Immigration Hub. “By large margins, Trump candidates lost. What does this mean for the GOP? They should expect oversight and a progressive legislative agenda in 2019, including a solution for Dreamers and TPS-holders.  And if they want to win elections in the future, they should listen to voters who want bipartisan solutions and not use scare tactics that divide and distract the electorate.”

The Immigration Hub, along with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), additionally commissioned an additional survey of nearly 2,000 registered Pennsylvania voters, polling their views on gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner’s ad, “Caravan”. The results show that Wagner’s ad failed to mobilize the majority of Pennsylvania voters to support Wagner, and in some cases even backfired by increasing turnout intentions of one of the most coveted Pennsylvania voting bloc - female voters, both liberal-leaning and moderate women. In fact, 62% of moderate suburban female voters did not support Scott Wagner’s ad.

Key Findings from the Pennsylvania Exit Poll

The survey conducted by Global Strategy Group polled 804 voters. An additional oversample was conducted in the outer Pittsburgh DMA (counties in the market aside from Allegheny County) to reach 206 total voters in this region.

  • Barletta’s Trumpian immigration positions were a net negative, overall and among Casey-Trump voters: 46% of voters believed that Barletta’s similarities to Trump on immigration were a reason to vote against him, while only 37% saw this as a positive for Barletta.

  • Pennsylvania voters found Barletta’s anti-immigrant platform more concerning than the Republican rhetoric of aligning Casey with sanctuary cities and open borders, by a margin of 48% to 37%. The margin among Casey-Trump voters was even wider, at 52% to 32%.

  • 58% of overall Pennsylvania voters were in clear opposition to Trump’s zero-tolerance policy at the border, including 60% of Casey-Trump voters who opposed the policy.

  • President Trump was a major presence on the minds of Pennsylvania voters, which hurt the GOP: 57% considered Trump a major factor in their vote for U.S. Senate.

View the full presentation of results.

Key Findings from the Colorado Exit Poll

This survey conducted by Global Strategy Group polled a base sample of 600 Colorado voters statewide. Additional over-samples were conducted in Jefferson County, to reach 208 voters in total in the county, and in the 6th Congressional District, to reach 191 total voters in the district.

  • In both the governor’s race and CD-06, voters favored Democratic candidates’ stances on immigration. Statewide voters agreed more with Jared Polis than Walker Stapleton on immigration by a 42% to 37% margin, and CD-06 voters agreed more with Jason Crow than Mike Coffman on the issue by a 47% to 41% margin.

  • Across Colorado, 57% of voters said that Trump and the GOP are moving further away from their political views on immigration. In fact, Colorado voters, including 55% of statewide voters and 60% of independents, saw the migrant caravan issue as “playing politics” and want less division and more problem-solving

  • Anti-immigrant scapegoating is out of step with the way most Coloradans view immigrants – as contributors to the state’s growth and success: 54% of overall Colorado voters believe that Colorado should be a welcoming  place for immigrants

  • 64% of voters statewide said when it comes to immigration, the top priority should be to stop dividing people and to work on bipartisan solutions to fix the country’s immigration system.

  • Stapleton’s Trumpian immigration positions were a net negative, overall and among independent voters: 52% statewide and 58% of independents believed that Stapleton’s similarities to Trump on immigration were a reason to vote against him.

View the full presentation of results.


The Immigration Hub is a national organization dedicated to providing strategic support to a broad spectrum of organizations seeking to enact progressive immigration policies at the federal and state level.