About 62 percent of Americans disapprove of President Barack Obama’s performance on immigration, according to a Gallup report released today of two recent polls. Obama fared better when asked about 11 other issues, such as race relations, education and terrorism. (His approval on the federal budget deficit was slightly worse, with 64 percent saying they disapproved of his performance in that area.)
The low approval rating for immigration is somewhat unsurprising, in light of criticism from both the left and right. While conservatives accuse Obama of wanting being soft on immigration enforcement, progressives call for him to make good on his campaign promise to pass immigration reform.
The latest complaints come from members of the Spanish-language media, who told Politico today Obama is in danger of losing his support among Latinos because he has expanded enforcement without passing immigration reform. Support from Latino voters is important — it helped usher Obama into office — and polls last month indicated that some Latino voters won’t come out to vote if reform measures are not passed.
But some argue Obama should not be blamed for the lack of an immigration reform bill. Matt Yglesias came to Obama’s defense, arguing the president cannot force Republican senators to support immigration reform:
But on this specific issue, I think there’s reason to believe that presidential leadership would actually be counterproductive. In Beyond Ideology, Frances Lee assembles some evidence—best read about on Ezra Klein’s blog—that when Presidents insert themselves into legislative debates, that induces partisan polarization. Immigration has always been an issue that scrambles both parties coalitions, and I don’t think that’s changed today. A more polarized dynamic is only going to make reform harder to achieve. Of course the president would have a role in pushing a bill over the finish line, but success requires a starting baseline of genuine cooperation on the Hill.