Trump's Immigration Rhetoric Backfired for Republicans in Colorado Elections

Colorado Republicans doubled down on anti-immigrant rhetoric for the 2018 elections, only to see that strategy backfire, according to an exit poll conducted by Global Strategy Group.

The poll surveyed over 600 Colorado voters and showed significantly more support for pro-immigrant rhetoric put forth by Democratic candidates than support for anti-immigrant rhetoric promoted by Republicans. The voting margins based on immigrant rhetoric were even more pronounced among independents, who largely sided with Democratic candidates' stances on immigration.

"The message of hate and reckless discrimination toward immigration was a losing message this cycle," says Nicole Melaku, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

The gubernatorial race provided a prime example of just how largely the anti-immigrant strategy failed for Republicans. More than half of voters who were polled felt that strong support for President Trump's immigration stance was a reason to vote against Republican Walker Stapleton and candidates like him.

The results weren't as stark in the race for the congressional seat in 6th District, where Democrat Jason Crow beat Republican incumbent Mike Coffman. In the months before the election, Coffman's campaign promoted his engagement with immigrant populations in his district.

"Coffman was slightly different. He tried to play up his support for DREAMers and his opposition to family separation. But in the end, his record spoke for itself," says Tyler Moran, director of Immigration Hub, who points to Coffman's record of supporting Trump in almost 96 percent of his votes.

As Coffman said during his concession speech on election night, "In this race, it was a referendum on the president."

The survey also shows that voters largely rejected Trump's draconian rhetoric about the Central American migrant caravan. Republicans tried to drum up fear about the caravan in the weeks before the election, only to see this strategy backfire in Colorado. Voters also overwhelmingly rejected Trump's family-separation policy at the border.

These exit poll results are worth bearing in mind for the next nationwide election, Moran says.

"The results from the midterms definitely show that independents and moderates are moving away from the Republican Party and their fear-mongering and demonizing of immigrants. So we think that this is a warning shot that they should be coming to the table with bipartisan solutions instead of employing Trump’s tactic on immigration," she says.