Measuring Constituent Attitudes on Immigration and its Effects on Legislative Behavior



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Abstract: Immigration is a highly contested topic that has divided political lines in much of recent history. However, literature shows that immigration has not always been as salient of an issue among voters, nor has it captivated as much polarization in Congress as it has recently. This has led me to hypothesize that an increase in constituent saliency surrounding immigration has led to an increase in polarization in Congress on immigration legislation. To answer my research question, I will employ two tactics: First, this study will examine public opinion on immigrant sentiment using survey data from years 1992-2016 extracted from the American National Election Survey (ANES) and the General Social Survey (GSS). After which, this study will combine the survey data with decennial Census data from years 1990, 2000, an 2010 in a multilevel regression and post-stratification model (MRP). By doing so, I will gain the necessary measure of constituent saliency towards immigration. Second, to correlate constituent saliency with elite behavior, this study will research bipartisanship, bill sponsorship, and amount of floor votes on immigration legislation within a similar time-series (1992-2016). To properly assume that an increase in constituent saliency leads to an increase in Congressional polarization, I expect to see less bipartisanship, bill sponsorship, and floor votes on immigration legislation over the time-series, as the measure produced by the regression model show a progressive uptick in constituent saliency.