CAPS - Harris Poll on Immigration and Foreign Policy

June 28, 2018

Immigration, North Korea, trade & tariffs, and the Russia investigation are addressed in the June 2018 poll by the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard (CAPS) and The Harris Poll.

Political Climate

At 47%, Donald Trump’s approval is the highest it’s been in over a year, and has been trending up steadily since March of 2018. The President’s approval on specific issues has also seen a bump – approval numbers on stimulating jobs (58%), his handling of the economy (57%), fighting terrorism (57%), foreign affairs (47%), and administering the government (45%) are at the highest recorded by this poll. Only his handling of immigration (46%) failed to reach a new high.

Optimism in the direction of the country is also at its highest since the beginning of the Trump presidency, but still lags below majority approval. Today, 39% of voters say the U.S. is on the right track, the highest recorded in the CAPS-Harris Poll, compared to 52% who say it is not. Forty-seven percent of voters also express confidence in the direction of the economy (compared to 39% who say it is off on the wrong track), and 69% believe the U.S. economy is strong today – the highest recorded number for this confidence variable.


Although American voters are sympathetic to immigrant families being separated at the border, they demand stronger border security and immigration enforcement. Voters do not believe that families ought to be separated when they cross illegally (88%), and they support the Trump administration’s late policy reversal, allowing families to stay together (71%), even if it was done unilaterally through an executive order.

A majority of voters want immigration reform (73%) and secure borders (76%). Voters also want stricter enforcement of immigration laws (70%). Voters support prosecuting immigrants who cross the border illegally (53%) and sending these immigrants home (64%). A majority (55%) also stand against so-called “catch and release” policies.

North Korea

Voters credit the Trump Administration with positive steps in the relationship with North Korea, but remain uncertain about prospects of denuclearization. A majority approve of the way the United States is handling North Korea (59%), and the summit (74%), while being optimistic that it offers a viable path for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons (57% -- compared to 47% in March 2018).

What do voters really think about the likelihood of a denuclearized Korean peninsula? Only 30% put the odds at better than one in two, and 37% say the odds of a denuclearization agreement coming about is less than 25%. Over half of voters say success here should earn the president a Nobel Peace Prize (52%). The voting public does not make this an easy endeavor; less than half (48%) want the U.S. to reduce troop levels in South Korea when negotiating a deal with North Korea.

Tariffs and Trade

The American voting public is uncertain about tariffs. They support the idea of loosening tariffs on goods from countries to negotiate better trade terms (59%), but oppose threatening tariffs on good from G7 countries if they don’t take steps to reduce the U.S. trade deficit (51%); they support the use of tariffs to reduce the trade deficit and keep jobs in the U.S. (55%), but over 4 in 10 voters are concerned higher consumer prices (45%).

Reaction to President Trump’s participation in the G7 Summit is mixed. American voters are uneasy about Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on G7 imports – 40% say this action could results in concessions from other G7 countries, but 45% believe it could result in a trade war. Americans did not find Trump’s criticism of Justin Trudeau appropriate (58%), and do not support readmitting Russia without first punishing it for annexing Crimea (37%).

Voters support a more aggressive stance when trading with China, however. When asked whether China should be punished for forcing U.S. technology companies to give up trade secrets in order to sell to Chinese consumer markets, 66% say that China should be punished. Two-thirds (68%) support taking actions to correct the trade deficit with China, only 32% say not to do so out of the risk of a trade war.

Russia Investigation

Only a third (35%) of voters believe the independent counsel has found evidence of collusion. In fact, at least half of voters believe the special counsel should wind down the investigation on collusion (53%) and obstruction (50%). In light of the Inspector General report, they believe the FBI should be investigated on how it handled the Trump-Russia probe (58%). Sixty-one percent say there is evidence of bias in the FBI, and 64% would like to see a special counsel appointed to investigate.

However, President Trump does not get a pass. A majority of voters believe that his firing Comey constituted obstruction of justice (54%), and 61% would like to see him testify in front of special counsel Mueller.

For more information on the June poll, go to the CAPS/Harris Poll website for the detailed results, and please visit The Hill ( for first look analysis of all polls.

The CAPS/Harris Poll website will be updated throughout the week with more information about the poll.


The survey was conducted by The Harris Poll online within the United States from June 24-25, 2018 among 1,448 registered voters.

The results reflect a nationally representative sample. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, marital status, household size, income, employment, and education where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

The poll was supervised by Harvard Professor of Government and CAPS Faculty Director Stephen Ansolabehere, Mark Penn, and Dritan Nesho.

Harvard Assistant Professor of Government Jon Rogowski contributed to this month’s CAPS-Harris Poll.

Stephen Ansolabehere has 25 years’ experience conducting survey research and experimental research in the field of political science.

Mark Penn is a former presidential pollster and has 40 years of polling experience.

Dritan Nesho is a fellow at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science and has over 11 years of polling and data analytics experience.