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UW Survey Finds Deep Divisions on Immigration Policy

November 4, 2016

Wyoming citizens are deeply divided on U.S. immigration policy, with a majority favoring a ban on Muslims traveling into the country, according to a survey conducted by the University of Wyoming.

Debate about immigration policy has played a major role in the current presidential election nationally and also in Wyoming. Evidence of the deep division in Wyoming is the finding in UW’s 2016 Election Survey that 55 percent of Wyomingites would support forbidding Muslims to travel to the U.S. -- a position advocated by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

According to Oliver Walter, one of the founders of the election survey and former member of UW’s Department of Political Science, the divide on this issue between supporters of the two presidential candidates is one of the largest differences between supporters of the candidates of the Republican and Democratic candidates for president in the history of the statewide survey. Those Wyoming citizens who favor Trump are strongly supportive of the exclusion of Muslims: Slightly over 80 percent of Trump backers agree with the ban, while only 8 percent of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton supporters do so.

A central issue in the debate over immigration is what should be the future status of undocumented immigrants. Again, Wyoming citizens, as most Americans, are deeply divided on this issue. The 2016 Wyoming Election survey found that 25 percent of Wyomingites favor a policy whereby all undocumented immigrants should be deported. On the other hand, 36 percent favor a policy that would allow illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. The remainder of survey respondents would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. to work, but only for a limited time.

Supporters of the two main presidential candidates have significantly different positions on the issue. Forty-one percent of Trump supporters favor a policy of deportation, compared to only 5 percent of Clinton supporters.

Telephone interviews with Wyoming residents selected at random were conducted Oct. 5-11 by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center’s Survey Research Center. The relevant questions were asked of 354 respondents, resulting in a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.

Biennial surveys of Wyoming residents are conducted by UW’s Department of Political Science in partnership with the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center. The election survey was first conducted in 1972 and has been repeated before every general election. The questions focus on attitudes toward government, contemporary policy issues, elected officials and candidates for office.

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