Under Pressure: Measuring Constituent Attitudes on Immigration and its Effects on Legislative Behavior



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Immigration is a highly contested topic that has divided political lines in much of recent history. Edwards and Gimpel (1999) show that immigration has not always been as polarized of an issue among voters, nor has it captivated as much partisanship in Congress as it has recently. This has led to the hypothesis that an increase in polarization among constituent attitudes surrounding immigrants has led to a decrease in bipartisanship in Congress on immigration legislation. To answer this question, the study will employ two tactics: First, this study will examine public opinion on immigrant sentiments using survey data extracted from the General Social Survey (GSS) over the time series 1994-2016, expanding upon the limited constituent anti-immigrant sentiment time series initiated by Butz and Kherberg (2016). After which, this study will combine the survey data with decennial Census data from years 1990, 2000, and 2010 in a multilevel regression and post-stratification model (MRP) (Butz and Kherberg, 2016), creating a state-level breakdown of constituent attitudes towards immigrants. Second, to correlate constituent attitudes to Congressional bipartisanship, I will measure immigration bill co-sponsorship over the same time series (1994-2016). To properly assume that an increase in polarization among constituent attitudes leads to a decrease in Congressional bipartisanship, I expect to see bipartisan bill co-sponsorship on immigration legislation decrease over the time-series, as the measure produced by the MRP show a progressive uptick in constituent polarization. These findings help contribute to the literature by providing new measures of state-level constituent attitudes on immigration, which can be correlated with legislative behavior to determine if Congressional policymaking accurately reflects public opinion.