Surprise! Massachusetts Democrats don’t want to abolish ICE.

Follow Twitter trends and cable news discussion, and you’d think the Democratic base was all-in on the idea of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Indeed, even national polling seemed to show Democrats headed in that direction, with a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll finding Democrats support abolishing ICE (43 percent) over keeping it (34 percent). Trump himself tweeted “Democrats want Open Borders and they want to abolish ICE”, one of four tweets he has sent on the issue since late June.

But a pair of Massachusetts polls tell a very different story about the 15-year-old agency responsible for enforcing immigration laws, among other things.

Democratic primary polls in the Massachusetts 3rd and 7th Congressional Districts both find likely voters in these contests would prefer to reform ICE rather than abolishing it altogether, and by quite a wide margin. The reform option was not included in the POLITICO poll, which offered the options of either keeping ICE or getting rid of it. This helps explain why more Democrats favored abolishing it in that poll. By only offering respondents a choice between opposing or supporting the abolishment of ICE, the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll flattens the issue.

But these polls show the Democratic base, as in voters who show up for congressional primaries, in a different place. The 7th District, where incumbent Congressman Michael Capuano faces a challenge from Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, is the deepest blue district in a dark blue state. Indeed, it is one of the most Democratic districts in the nation in terms of voting patterns for President and other offices. Even here, our poll for WBUR found 64 percent of Democratic primary voters want to reform ICE, just 21 percent would prefer to see it abolished, and 8 percent would keep it as is.

A new poll of likely voters in the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary shows a similar pattern. The UMass Lowell / Boston Globe poll found 71 percent would prefer reform, 9 percent say ICE should be abolished, and 13 percent think it’s fine the way it is. Among Latino voters in the poll, 19 percent say it should be abolished, while 71 percent opt for reform. And it’s not a pressing issue to voters overall - only 4 percent of respondents say immigration is the most important issue facing their district.

These results may seem surprising given the national furor over ICE after the agency was involved in separating migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Thousands of people turned out in June for a rally in Boston against migrant family separation, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Representative Joe Kennedy. A number of Massachusetts officials and candidates have called for an overhaul of ICE, although only Representative Jim McGovern has called for it to be abolished.

The rest of the delegation has issued statements that live somewhere between reform and abolishment, with some blurring of the lines. Senator Elizabeth Warren called for “replacing ICE with something that reflects our values,” while Senator Ed Markey said it should be “dismantled and reconstructed.”

Practically, there is significant overlap in reforming the agency, dismantling and reconstructing it, or abolishing it. Many of the functions of ICE would continue to exist whether they live under the same agency or placed somewhere else in the government. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most ardent proponents of abolishing ICE said that “doesn’t mean get rid of our immigration policy, but what it does mean is to get rid of the draconian enforcement that has happened since 2003 that routinely violates our civil rights.”

This is also an illustration of two key realities of polling. The first is that polling doesn’t always show what you expect. Issues making big waves on cable news don’t always do much for voters. The Twitter perpetual outrage machine was also pointing in the wrong direction as to how most Democrats feel.

Second, different question formats can produce different results. There is nothing wrong with the way the POLITICO poll asked the question. It shows that, just between those two options, Democrats would prefer abolishing ICE. But with a third option, a very different picture emerges. Looking at all of the polling on a given issue can offer more illumination than only looking at the one generating the biggest headlines.

It turns out not that many voters went from anger at ICE to calling for its dismantlement. This may change. The more strongly Donald Trump defends one position, the more Democrats may oppose it. We’ve certainly seen that pattern before. But for now, amidst polarizing commentary and late-night tweets, Massachusetts voters are opting for reform.

By Steve Koczela and Maeve Duggan

EVENT ALERT

Join us at WeWork Beacon Hill (1 Beacon St) on September 5, 6-8 PM, the night after the primary, for a special live, Winner’s Circle Edition of the Horse Race! Your hosts, MPG’s Steve Koczela and Lauren Dezenski of POLITICO Massachusetts, will recap what just happened and look forward to the general election. Click here to RSVP!

MPG ICYMI

This week on the Horse Race, Steve and Lauren welcome former Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray and bring you the latest on the Galvin-Zakim race as each campaign launches attack ads. Plus a call for transparency on Beacon Hill from state Senate-hopeful Becca Rausch and 14 other Democratic women.

THE CROSSTABS

The FiveThirtyEight Trump approval tracker has Trump’s approval at 42 percent and disapproval at 53 percent.

Of all fifty states, Trump is least popular in Massachusetts, according to Morning Consult. (Washington, DC beats out Massachusetts, but they’re not a state, despite their fondest wishes, so…we’re #1.)

Dan Koh, the former chief-of-staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, holds a narrow lead over a field of ten candidates in the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District. He leads with 19 percent of likely voters, follow by Rufus Gifford and Barbara L’Italien tied at 13 percent. But 29 percent are undecided, so keep an eye on this one.

In the race for control of the House of Representatives, FiveThirtyEight’s tracker puts the Democrats ahead of the Republicans in the generic ballot with an 8 point lead.

More than half of Americans say Trump’s presidency makes them think less favorably of the Republican party.

According to a recent poll published by HuffPost, half of the public believes the Trump White House has faced more scandals than previous administrations.

Morning Consult launched the first in a series of deep dives on independent voters, a crucial voting bloc for House control. 40 percent of Independents are still uncertain which way they’ll vote in the fall, but Democrats edge out Republicans by 8 points on a generic ballot.

Fox News found that 59 percent of registered voters approve of Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia, up from 48 percent in July.

For the first time, Gallup found that more Democrats have a positive view of socialism than capitalism.

A Pew Research Center poll found that 60 percent of those who approve of Trump’s job performance say they like his personality and approach.

An interactive map published by the New York Times shows how the age at which women have children echos other demographic divides in the country including location, education, and attitudes toward gender roles.

Think your teen is distracted by their phone? They think the same of you. Pew Research Center is out with their latest on parents, teens, and technology.

A Pew Research poll breaks down opinions surrounding genetic engineering in animals - TLDR: if it benefits humans, it’s OK.

--------------------------------- NERD ALERT ------------------------------------

Shoutout to Wikipedia user Phoenix7777 and ACLU staffer Kate Oh for creating and bringing our attention to this mesmerizing graphic. It shows Trump’s tweets over time, plotted by time of day. Around Obama’s second inauguration, everything went haywire.

 

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