In the United States there have long-standing disagreements concerning what to do about illegal immigration. But it seems to me that prior to the 2016 election, the mainstream of both U.S. political parties favored increased legal immigration, to the point where Scott Walker's vague suggestion that he might be in favor of reducing legal immigration actually hurt him in the early days of the 2016 Republican primary campaign. Yet by the end of the 2016 campaign, and afterwards, it's become fairly common on the Right to favor reduced legal immigration.

So my question is, did Donald Trump shift the immigration debate to the right? Has there been any political science research on this?

One counterpoint to Trump being the cause is the concomitant rise of nationalist parties in Europe opposing legal immigration, but I could foresee a situation where in the absence of Trump, U.S. political thought diverged from that of Europe.

  • Do you mean "of" rather than "to" in the title? The general talk generally leans towards the party in power, though I guess with more or less segregated media that may be less true now.
    – user9389
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 1:09
  • @notstoreboughtdirt I did mean "to". It used to be that far-left favored open border, the center-left favored amnesty for illegals, the center favored border security in exchange for amnesty, the center-right favored border-security and deportation, and the far-right favored border-security, deportation, and reduced legal immigration. I think the Overton window has shifted to the right; the position that used to be far-right on immigration is now fairly common on the center-right. Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 1:37
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    The idea that Scott Walker's anti-immigration stance cost him support is totally unproven, and stands in sharp contrast to the conservative republican base being opposed to increased immigration for a very long time. Good example of how someone slips in a false narrative and then tries to build on it.
    – tj1000
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 15:47
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    Please justify the claim that "it's become fairly common on the Right to favor reduced legal immigration." Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 16:36
  • @DrunkCynic That's fairly obvious. It's like saying "it's fairly common on the Right to support low taxes".
    – user5904
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


Regarding political science studies, they are still in the making, but I think you will see a lot of studies on his electoral campaign, use of social media and his shifts in policy positions.

A quite good summary with many short blog posts on different aspects of the US elections 2016 (especially the texts by Dr Cherian George & Dr Deborah Gabriel might be of interest for you). For your question, you should might consider that the endorsement of Ku Klux Klan for Trump (and Trump didn't distance himself from this), his rhetoric on Mexican citizens and Trumps earlier claim that Barack Obama is not an US citizen are issues that might have shifted the debate and the policy on immigration.

However, there are also people and organisations needed that take Trump's position as valid, agree upon his position and share his view. If there would radical opposition among the people, media and other politicians in regard to Trumps opinion on immigration, there would be no shift in immigration policy possible.

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