"While academic studies suggest a connection between economic conditions and attitudes toward immigration, nobody can say with certainty whether any given voter in South Carolina is responding to economic anxiety with an anti-immigration sentiment," Tankersely writes. "Still, polling and economic data, along with interviews with experts and voters, suggest a strong overlap between the two."
Scott Huffman, a pollster at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, told Tankersely, “It’s a way to channel anger over a lot of disparate things. It’s the kind of people who feel like they’re losing power, they have been since Obama came in. They’re losing efficacy, the sense that they control things. You have to blame somebody. And immigration, especially immigration from Mexico, has become the target for that.”
Tankersely writes, "Polls show that Trump is running strongest among voters—both in South Carolina and nationwide—without college degrees, a disadvantaged group that has seen their economic prospects slide in recent decades. These voters are significantly more apt to support deporting undocumented immigrants, according to Washington Post-ABC News polling. Trump also draws a larger share of support from Republicans who say they are very worried about their financial future, compared to those who are less worried or not worried at all, according to the Post-ABC poll. Cruz also does well among these groups as well."
The Winthrop poll found that more than 6 in 10 Republican voters in South Carolina, and nearly 75 percent of the Trump supporters there, "believe immigrants—all immigrants, not just those in the country illegally—take jobs away from U.S. citizens," Tankersely writes. "South Carolina offers a microcosm of how working-class stagnation may be driving anti-immigration sentiment. Workers without college degrees have struggled to get ahead as South Carolina has remade its economy from one heavily reliant on textiles and agriculture to higher-end manufacturing. The textile jobs, which involved low-skilled manufacturing, have largely moved overseas, while immigrants have increased their presence in agriculture and in the state’s construction industry." (Read more)