Immigration was not a central issue in the fall of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, according to a new poll funded by Americans for a Conservative Direction, a Mark Zuckerberg-backed, pro-immigration reform group.
Of those who voted for Cantor’s primary challenger David Brat in Tuesday’s Virginia primary, said the poll, just 22% cited immigration as the main reason for their vote. A total of 77% cited other factors such as Cantor’s perceived focus on “national politics instead of local needs” and a belief he had “lost touch with voters.” Obamacare and the expansion of the national debt were seen as much more harmful to America than immigration reform.
The poll found that 69% of Brat voters approved of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. The poll was conducted by Basswood Research with a survey size of 400 and a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.
As the results rolled in Tuesday, some political analysts suggested that immigration wasn’t a factor in Cantor’s loss, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) soundly defeated his primary competition despite his support of comprehensive immigration reform.
Graham told the New York Times Wednesday that Cantor’s lukewarm stance on immigration may have been the real issue, as he supported reform to benefit younger illegal immigrants and high-tech workers but not others. “You’ve got to take a firm stance one way or the other,” Graham told the Times. “The worst thing you can do on an issue like this is to be hard to figure out. And I am not hard to figure out on immigration.”
Other conservatives have argued that immigration was the key factor in Cantor becoming the first majority leader to lose a primary. “Anyone who thinks immigration wasn’t the driving issue in Cantor’s defeat is whistling past the graveyard,” wrote Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, in Politico Magazine Wednesday.