Poll: Iowa Republicans May Not Be Freaked Out Enough by Immigration to Punish Gingrich

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 6 2011 11:37 AM

Poll: Iowa Republicans May Not Be Freaked Out Enough by Immigration to Punish Gingrich

Jed Lewison pulls a surprising answer out of the WashPost/ABC News poll of Iowa. Which candidate do Republicans "trust to handle the issue of illegal immigration"? The winner: Newt Gingrich. He's up by 15 points overall, and voila, he's up by 19 points over Romney on that issue. Not just that, but the side issue that Romney tried to wound Gingrich on -- the fate of good "citizens" who were never naturalized -- isn't irritating Iowans at all.

Do you think people who have immigrated to the United States illegally but have lived here 25 years, have paid taxes, and have obeyed the law should be deported or not?
They should be deported: 29
They should not: 44
Not sure: 27

So what happened? Go into the internals of the poll. Immigration is basically a boutique issue -- 3 percent of GOP caucuse-goers say it's the most important.

Screen shot 2011-12-06 at 12.04.58 PM

Now, compare that to the December 2007 ABC/WashPost poll in Iowa -- same electorate, some of the same issues. (The two columns are for first/second choice preferences.)

Screen shot 2011-12-06 at 12.08.09 PM

There we go. The Romney campaign is fighting the last war -- Iowa Republicans don't care about immigration like they used to.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.