At almost every campaign stop these days, Donald Trump urges his supporters not to lose heart just because most opinion polls show him headed for defeat. Look, he says, at what happened with Brexit — the British vote in favor of exiting the European Union in June that shocked the political and media elite of the United Kingdom.
In the past few days, Trump has predicted that America’s white working-class is poised to deliver an election-day sequel he’s called “Another Brexit,” “Beyond Brexit,” “Brexit Plus,” or “Brexit Times Five.”
But if Trump is really expecting to sweep to victory on the kind of anti-immigrant, nativist wave that decided the British referendum, he is likely to be disappointed.
To start with, as Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight observed last week, it is simply not true that the polls in Britain predicted a vote against Brexit in the final weeks of that campaign.
Why do folks continue to argue that most polls in Brexit showed remain winning? During June, Leave led in 17 polls, Remain in 14, 3 ties.— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) October 17, 2016
“The final polls showed a toss-up between the United Kingdom leaving the European Union or remaining in it, and ‘leave’ eventually won by 4 points,” Nate Silver explained on Thursday. “If the polls were biased against Trump by that much in this election, he’d still lose, by a margin approximating the one by which Mitt Romney lost to President Obama four years ago.”
Perhaps more importantly, the idea that the American electorate is similar to the British one on the issue Trump has made the centerpiece of his campaign, immigration, is not borne out by evidence.
Having spent a good part of my childhood shuttling between the United States and the British Isles, I can attest that one of the most common errors Americans make about Britain is failing to understand just how different the two cultures are, particularly with regard to attitudes on immigration, despite sharing a (more or less) common language.
As I reported in August, this manifests itself in ways that cut against the likelihood of Trump riding to power on an anti-immigrant backlash. To start with, there is evidence that Americans are far more likely than Britons to say that the ethnic and racial diversity brought about by immigration makes their country better, not worse.
This is supported by new data on attitudes to undocumented immigrants released last week in a Fox News poll that showed Hillary Clinton with a six-point lead over Trump. A largely overlooked aspect of that poll was the overwhelming majority in support of giving “illegal immigrants who are currently working in the United States,” a path to citizenship — rather than deporting them, as Trump has promised.
The survey showed that since Trump launched his campaign last year, by branding Mexican immigrants drug dealers, criminals and “rapists,” support for granting legal status to the undocumented has increased, climbing to 74% of likely voters this month. Just 18% of the electorate backs Trump’s plan for mass deportations.