New Polling Shows Voters in Crucial Battlegrounds and Nationwide Prefer Proven Solutions Over Toughness on Public Safety and Immigration

When candidates on both sides of the aisle try to take a page out of the MAGA playbook, they lose favor with voters. When they offer solutions, they gain favor.

Immigration and public safety are two key issues shaping the 2024 elections. Though candidates on both sides have been doubling down on harsh policies as the election season intensifies, recent polling from the ACLU and other leading organizations show that this is not the approach most voters want. Instead of calls to lock more people up in jails, prisons, and detention centers, voters are looking for elected leaders to provide an affirmative vision that tackles the root causes of immigration and public safety issues.

Partnering with Impact Research and Lake Research Partners, in March 2024 the ACLU surveyed voters in eight congressional battleground districts across five states: Arizona, California, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio. In April and May, we then fielded YouGov surveys in battleground states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — as well as nationally. We found a clear gap between what voters want — solutions — and what candidates assume they want — toughness.

Our research, coupled with numerous recent surveys conducted by well-respected firms — including Benenson Strategy Group, Global Strategy Group (GSG), and GQR — demonstrates that when candidates try to take a page out of the MAGA playbook to seem “tough” on crime and the border, they lose votes among key persuadable audiences, namely Independents and undecideds. This is true regardless of which political party the candidate belongs to. In head to head matchups, whether it’s a Republican or Democrat espousing a “tough” narrative based in fear, they lose to the candidate offering a “solutions” response.

This research, which offers critical insights into what voters in battlegrounds think about immigration and public safety, should encourage candidates across the political divide to offer affirmative solutions over fear-based narratives and proposals that trample on civil liberties.

Battleground voters, and voters nationwide, overwhelmingly find calls for a balanced approach to immigration far more persuasive than hard-line messages that argue that it is too dangerous or costly to open our country to new immigrants.

Balanced approach messaging wins regardless of party. We tested a balanced approach messaging against “tough on immigration” messaging for both parties and found that when candidates use messages that focus on the contributions of immigrants and providing fair, efficient and humane process at the border, they perform better against candidates of the same party that use tough-on-immigration messaging.

When it comes to public safety, voters across the political spectrum prefer prevention over punishment – they are eager for a solutions-driven approach to address the root causes of crime.

In key battleground Congressional districts in AZ, CA, OH, and NJ voters overwhelmingly agree that to make our communities safer, we need to focus on solutions to address the root causes of crime.

Root causes messaging wins regardless of party. We tested “root causes” messaging against “tough on crime” messaging for both parties and found that when candidates use messages that focus on addressing the root causes of crime such as poverty, homelessness and mental health issues, they perform better against candidates of the same party that use tough-on-crime messaging.

This research delivers a clear message for candidates: Voters are hungry for bold, new solutions, not the same old fear-driven tactics. The key to success in 2024's electoral battlegrounds lies in presenting innovative, solution-focused approaches to immigration and public safety. By embracing this strategy, candidates can connect deeply with their base and sway the undecideds, charting a path to victory that aligns with civil liberties and truly resonates with the electorate's desire for meaningful change.