Washington

Ending Title 42 Is Biden’s Most Unpopular Move Yet

56% of U.S. voters oppose the White House’s plan to remove pandemic-era border controls

An asylum seeker from Mexico, right, waits outside the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, which he was trying to cross to plead for asylum in the United States, on March 22. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Republicans were eager to seize on the Biden administration’s announcement last week that it will curtail the Title 42 public health measure that has allowed the United States to swiftly expel nearly 2 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border over the past two years, and a new Morning Consult/Politico survey shows why: It’s this administration’s most unpopular decision so far.

Most Voters Oppose Move to Revoke Pandemic-Era Border Policy

Voters were asked if they support the Biden administration’s removal of border controls* put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020

*Voters were told that the border controls were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 and enabled the United States to quickly expel migrants seeking to enter the country for protection.
Survey conducted April 1-4, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,003 registered U.S. voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
What the numbers say
  • A majority of registered voters (56%) oppose the decision to remove the border controls implemented by the Trump administration, the largest backlash against a Biden administration policy among dozens tracked by Morning Consult since January 2021.
  • The response to the Title 42 decision eclipses the negative reaction to Biden’s September directive to raise the cap on refugees admitted into the country from 15,000 to 125,000 for the 2022 fiscal year.
  • While 60% of Democratic voters support the move, just 31% of independents and 8% of Republicans feel similarly.
Why immigration is a big problem for Biden

The findings provide just the latest example of the political difficulties immigration poses to the Biden administration.

From day one, Morning Consult survey data has shown Biden’s executive actions on immigration to be his most unpopular, and even when the president was enjoying favorable approval ratings early on, voters tended to disapprove of his handling of the issue. For example, a March 2021 survey found that just 40% of voters approved of Biden’s immigration handling, 18 percentage points lower than his overall approval rating at the time.

With the political environment now in a much more dire state for Democrats due to persistent inflation, immigration threatens to transform the upcoming midterm elections from a defeat into a catastrophe. Among 14 issues tracked on a biweekly basis, the latest survey found that 55% of voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration — a figure only exceeded by the 57% who disapprove of his handling of the economy.

Nearly 4 in 5 Republicans (77%) strongly disapprove of Biden’s tack on immigration, as do 39% of independents, ranking it among the two worst issues for both groups along with the economy. Immigration is also a source of consternation for Biden’s base: The 66% of Democrats who approve of his handling of it is the second-smallest share after gun policy, and among that share, 44% only somewhat approve of his handling there.

With Title 42 set to expire on May 23 and Department of Homeland Security officials expecting an influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in the coming months, immigration looks set to feature heavily in the media cycle during the fight for Congress.

The latest Morning Consult/Politico survey was conducted April 1-4, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,003 registered U.S. voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult