Major US-Mexico Border Poll Finds Opposition to Wall, Says Election Politics Damaging

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Survey from ASU's Cronkite News, Univision and Dallas Morning News also shows respondents find election politics damaging

Cronkite News has released a major poll with Univision News and The Dallas Morning News on important election issues involving the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo by Courtney Pedroza

The overwhelming majority of residents living along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are opposed to the construction of a wall between their countries, according to a major bilingual poll released today by Arizona State University’s Cronkite News, Univision News, and The Dallas Morning News.

The Cronkite News-Univision News-Dallas Morning News Border Poll found:

86 percent of border residents in Mexico and 72 percent of U.S. border residents were against building a wall between Mexico and the U.S.

Compared to other border issues, 77 percent of border residents in Mexico and 70 percent of U.S. border residents described building the wall as “not important.”

In addition, a majority of residents along both sides of the border also see the current tone of the U.S. presidential campaign as potentially damaging for relations between the two countries (Mexico: 69 percent; U.S.: 59 percent).

“As a journalist, I hope this poll serves as a bridge in bringing two countries closer by shining a light on the border, a vibrant, complex and often misunderstood region where people on both sides have more in common than the differences that are too often highlighted,” said Alfredo Corchado, the former Dallas Morning News Mexico City bureau chief who now serves as an editor on the borderlands desk at Cronkite News.

The Cronkite News-Univision News-Dallas Morning News Border Poll surveyed 1,427 residents in 14 cities along the U.S.-Mexico border to assess attitudes and opinions on important election issues such as the local economy, immigration and border security. Part of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Cronkite News is the student-staffed, professionally led news division of Arizona PBS.

The poll was conducted in April and May 2016 by Baselice & Associates Inc., a public research opinion firm based in Austin, Texas, with extensive experience in the Southwest.

“While people in Mexico and the United States have opinions about the border, this unique survey explores the opinions of people who live along that border,” said pollster Mike Baselice, president of Baselice & Associates. “We have the benefit of having asked several of the questions in this survey 15 years ago. Therefore, this survey tracks similarities and differences along with the responses to new questions.”

In comparison to the 2001 poll, opinions on the status of the border region among residents have become less favorable. In 2001, roughly 40 percent of residents on both sides of the border felt the region had gotten better. When asked the same question this year, less than 20 percent said the region had gotten better.

The comprehensive Border Poll, which had an overall margin of error of 2.6 percent, surveyed residents in seven pairs of “sister cities” stretching from California/Baja California to Arizona/Sonora and Texas/Tamaulipas.

The 2016 poll showed that residents in neighboring border communities were deeply connected. Both share similar concerns for their families on issues such as safety, jobs and education.

When asked: “Do you like your neighbors in U.S./Mexico,” 86 percent of U.S. border residents said yes, as did 79 percent of border residents in Mexico.

When asked: “Which of the following best describes how much your city depends on your sister city across the border,” 79 percent of U.S. border city residents and 69 percent of Mexico’s border city residents in Mexico said their cities are either “somewhat dependent” or “very much dependent” upon each other.

When sister city residents (such as those in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Chihuahua) were asked if they favored or opposed allowing workers to cross the border to work and then return home, 76 percent of U.S. border residents and 85 percent of border residents in Mexico were in favor.

“The U.S.-Mexico border is a major issue this election year,” said Cronkite School Dean and Arizona PBS CEO Christopher Callahan. “This extraordinary poll captures the voices of the people who actually live and work along the border, providing a critical component to the national discourse this election season and showing how united border residents are on many issues.”

In addition to publishing the poll’s results, Univision News has assigned a seasoned television reporter and a team of digital journalists to focus on its most relevant findings. Univision Network’s national newscast, “Noticiero Univision,” will feature their reporting during the week of the poll’s publication, while Univision News’ website, UnivisionNoticias.com, will launch a permanent section dedicated to border issues that will include the poll-related stories, videos and graphics prepared specifically by its team of journalists as well as other stories dealing with life on the border.

“In the midst of an exceptionally contentious presidential election in which immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border have become hot topics, this poll provides a fascinating and underreported perspective that may surprise many voters,” said Daniel Coronell, president of News, Univision Communications Inc. (UCI). “Univision News has always given special attention to all aspects of the immigration debate, and now during the 2016 election cycle we are even more committed to being Hispanic America’s go-to source of information and analysis on border-related issues. This poll and our new dedicated digital section are two examples of this focus.”

The Dallas Morning News will feature a multimedia package of stories on its website, dallasnews.com, as well as a full print report in its July 18 and July 19 editions. The news package includes a close look at how residents in Texas towns from El Paso to Brownsville view life along the border.

“The Dallas Morning News is proud to be a partner in this project,” said Mike Wilson, editor of The Dallas Morning News. “Polling people on both sides of the border provides special insight into issues affecting both countries and gives readers — and political leaders — some of the information they need to make effective public policy decisions.”

The Cronkite News Borderlands team of students, led by award-winning veteran journalists Corchado and Angela Kocherga, has produced multimedia packages and reports for the Cronkite News nightly newscast, which reaches 1.9 million households in Arizona, and the Cronkite News website at cronkitenews.azpbs.org.

“This election year, a lot of people are talking about the border and the wall but not to border residents,” Kocherga said. “Those who live on the border know the issues first hand, and they are directly affected by policies. This groundbreaking poll reflects their views.”

This summer, Cronkite News student journalists have traveled to the border, interviewing residents in English and Spanish about the Border Poll. Cronkite student Courtney Pedroza visited seven border cities between Nogales, Ariz., and Laredo, Texas, to interview people and document their issues and concerns.

“Working on this border poll opened my eyes to a community I hadn’t really seen before,” Pedroza said. “One I don’t think people understand well. With my camera, it gave me the opportunity to document their lives, hopes and frustrations.”

The Cronkite News-Univision-Dallas Morning News Border Poll was funded by the media partners and the public through the crowdfunding platform, Beacon, which matched the contributions.

Between the three news organizations, numerous stories and graphics are being produced for this project.

“Our Borderlands team is committed to telling stories of life in the region,” said Kevin Dale, executive editor of Cronkite News at Arizona PBS. “This project with our partners at Univision and The Morning News illuminates the issues and concerns faced every day by those residents.”

The complete Cronkite News-Univision-Dallas Morning News Border Poll and coverage from Cronkite News can be found at http://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2016/07/17/border-poll-overview/.

Follow the border poll on social media using the hashtag #borderpoll, as well as on Cronkite News social media (Twitter: @cronkitenews; Facebook: /cronkitenewsonline), Univision News social media (Twitter: @UnivisionNews; Facebook: /UnivisionNews; hashtag: #UnivisionNews) and Dallas Morning News Social Media (Twitter: @dallasnews; Facebook: /dallasmorningnews).

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Joe Giordano
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
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