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New Yahoo News/YouGov poll: Americans give Biden mixed reviews on immigration and the border

Caitlin Dickson
·Reporter
·4 min read
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A majority of Americans disapprove of President Biden’s handling of immigration issues and believe that, overall, the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border has gotten worse since he took office, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The poll, which surveyed 1,556 U.S. adults between March 23 and 25, found that 62 percent of respondents believe there is a “crisis” at the Mexican border, a word Biden administration officials have bent over backward to avoid in recent days, as the growing number of migrant children in federal custody at the border has become the subject of national media attention and intense political scrutiny.

President Joe Biden talks to reporters during the first news conference of his presidency in the East Room of the White House on March 25, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Biden. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

For the most part, attitudes toward Biden’s approach to immigration seem to fall along partisan lines, with 79 percent of respondents who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 saying they “strongly disapprove” of the current administration’s policies. But Biden backers were less united in their support, with more of the Democrat’s voters (43 percent) saying they “somewhat approve” of his actions on immigration compared with just 23 percent who said they “strongly approve.”

As a candidate, Biden positioned himself as Trump’s polar opposite when it came to immigration and the border, promising to replace the restrictive and punitive policies of the Trump administration with a more humane and welcoming system, particularly for those seeking asylum and other humanitarian protections. Immediately upon taking office, Biden moved quickly to start following through on that promise, earning praise from immigration advocates and progressives as he signed stacks of executive orders to roll back a number of his predecessor’s harshest policies during his first days and weeks in the White House.

But recently the Biden administration has faced criticism from both sides of the aisle over its apparent failure to prevent, and more quickly respond to, an influx of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border, resulting in overcrowding and prolonged detention at Border Patrol facilities. The administration has taken a variety of steps over the last several days to increase bed capacity at existing shelters and stand up new emergency childcare facilities, while also working to speed up the process of safely reunifying those children with parents or appropriate sponsors.

Still, a senior Border Patrol official told reporters Friday that, on a given day, “we’re apprehending more people than we can discharge from Border Patrol custody.”

Sandra Rebolorio, a migrant asylum seeker from Guatemala, who was airlifted from Brownsville to El Paso, Texas, and deported from the U.S., carries her daughter near the Paso del Norte international border bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on March 16, 2021. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)
Sandra Rebolorio, an asylum seeker from Guatemala who was airlifted from Brownsville, Texas, to El Paso and deported from the U.S., carries her daughter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 16. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

During his first formal press conference at the White House, on Thursday, Biden acknowledged that the conditions in which thousands of children are currently being held at the border are “totally unacceptable.” But he defended his decision not to turn away unaccompanied minors at the border, even as his administration continues to expel most other migrants, including families, under a Trump-era emergency public health order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“The only people we’re not going to let sit there on the other side of the Rio Grande with no help is children,” Biden said Thursday. “No previous administration has done that either, except Trump. I’m not gonna do it, not gonna do it.”

Despite the general disapproval of Biden’s handling of the border situation, the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 43 percent of respondents agree with his stance on unaccompanied minors, while 35 percent said the U.S. should turn away children who arrive at the border without a parent or guardian.

The poll also found that Biden’s approval rating has gone up to 53 percent in recent weeks despite the situation on the border, an increase of 3 points since mid-February and 8 points since his January inauguration.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,556 U.S. adults interviewed online from March 23 to March 25. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or non-vote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7 percent.

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