ABSTRACT

Presidents use immigration rhetoric strategically to influence the public and gain support for their policy and electoral goals. This chapter explores whether presidential rhetoric shapes public opinion on immigration over time. Although immigration has become a salient cleavage between the Republican and Democratic parties, previous research suggests a limited role for presidential influence on the public. Most evidence that explains public attitudes on immigration does not emphasize the president, anyway, and it looks instead at long and short-term influences, like news coverage, on public support for immigration. The chapter then applies policy agendas theory and theories of presidential public leadership to examine the president’s leadership of the public’s immigration policy agenda. The findings suggest that presidents struggle to lead the public’s immigration policy agenda, although they may be able to influence public opinion indirectly through increased news coverage.