University Study: Support for amnesty legislation may damage GOP's electoral prospects in congress

Campus Reform Reporter
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Republican incumbents could lose support among their electoral base by supporting less restrictive legislation for illegal immigrants, a new study from the University of Houston reveals.

Hawley’s research indicates GOP incumbents are not likely to benefit electorally by taking more liberal positions on immigration.

Surprisingly, the study conducted by Dr. George Hawley, a professor in the Honors College, also found that most GOP incumbents with pro-immigration voting records gained no discernible increase in support among Latinos in their electorate.

According to Hawley, his research challenges the common belief that an individual member of congress could increase his or her share of the local Latino vote by taking a more liberal stance on immigration issues.

"Conventional wisdom has long held that restrictive immigration policies hamstring Republicans,” Hawley told Campus Reform.  “If this is the case, then we should see some evidence that Latino voters are more receptive to pro-immigration Republicans.”

Hawley used data from the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) to examine voter choice among Latinos and non-Hispanic Whites and organized the results in a multilevel logit model.

“This study found no apparent relationship between incumbent immigration record and Latino vote choice, suggesting that the conventional wisdom must be updated,” he continued.

Hawley stressed his research should not be generalized, but suggested the GOP should think twice before subscribing to the belief that a more liberal stance on immigration issues would help incumbents win more elections.

"While we should not make sweeping generalizations based on a single cross-sectional study, these results suggest immigration reform is not likely to be an electoral panacea for congressional Republicans."

Hawley analyzed the overall record of GOP incumbent’s immigration positions in the 2006 election, when comprehensive immigration reform was hot political topic, to determine if it had an effect on their electoral outcomes.

The research paper is titled Issue Voting and Immigration: Do Restrictionist Policies Cost Congressional Republicans Votes?"  and has been accepted as part of the next print edition of the Social Science Quarterly.  The results are currently available online.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @TimPDion.