NJ Dem Support Up for Unauthorized Immigrants, GOP Holds Firm
Data collected by the Monmouth University Polling Institute show much less concern in New Jersey about illegal immigration in the early 2020s as compared to the late 2000s, but the shift is almost entirely attributable to one side of the political spectrum.
Poll director Patrick Murray said the partisan split on unauthorized immigrants deepened in particular during and after the 2016 election cycle.
"For one thing, among Republicans, opinion hasn't shifted. Opinion today is about where it was then," Murray said. "I think the harsh rhetoric that we saw in the 2016 campaign around immigrants pushed a lot of Democrats off the fence, and onto supporting these kinds of services and accommodations."
Services and accommodations, for instance, like the driver's licenses and non-driver IDs that became available to non-citizens in the Garden State as of May 1.
In 2009, the Monmouth University Poll found just 33% of New Jerseyans favored this far-off idea. Now, in the latest Monmouth poll released Tuesday, 57% of respondents support it.
But Republicans truly haven't budged, Murray said. Twelve years ago, 27% of Republicans disagreed with licenses for unauthorized immigrants, and that number has only inched up to 31% in 2021.
Meanwhile, Democratic backing has skyrocketed, from 39% in 2009 to 77% now.
The overall attitude on the impact of immigrants in New Jersey illegally has eased since the first decade of the millennium, according to Murray. Those who feel illegal immigration is a very serious problem for the state have decreased from about half of poll respondents between 2007 and 2009, to just under a quarter (24%) today.
"The majority of the New Jersey public has become less concerned with illegal immigration being a problem that undermines our economy, or stability in our society," Murray said.
One of the earliest lifelines extended by Gov. Phil Murphy's administration to unauthorized immigrants was the ability to apply for higher education tuition aid grants, which the governor signed within months of his 2018 inauguration.
In the aggregate, New Jersey is still split on this three-year-old policy: 48% of those polled say this portion of the population should be eligible for in-state financial aid, and 47% say they should not be.
Seven in 10 Democrats, however, are in favor of it.
"While the Murphy administration is ahead of the curve in general in public opinion on this, this has solid support among Democrats, and that's again this dividing line that we've seen on immigration," Murray said.
But Murray said even this issue has evolved over the years. As of 2009, only about 4 in 10 (39%) New Jerseyans felt unauthorized immigrants should be allowed to attend public colleges — at all.