The first signs are emerging that the progressive campaign to abolish ICE is working

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesProtesters at a Manhattan rally against the Trump administration’s immigration policies on June 1.
  • The progressive campaign to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is catching on among Democratic voters, according to new polling.
  • But Americans’ views on ICE are deeply divided along partisan lines – while 72% of Democrats have an unfavorable view of the agency, the same percentage of Republicans have a positive view.
  • This comes amid reports of widespread abuses at the agency, a spike in arrests of undocumented immigrants, and President Donald Trump’s deeply controversial “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

The progressive movement to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is staking out ground in the political mainstream – and 72% of Democrats now support eliminating the agency, according to new polling.

But Americans’ views on ICE are deeply divided along partisan lines. The same share of Republicans – 72% – have a favourable opinion of ICE, according to the Pew Research Center poll.

Among the general public, ICE was the least popular federal agency among nine agencies polled by Pew. (The most popular was the National Park Service, with an 83% favorability rating). Overall, about the same portion of Americans have a positive view of ICE (49%) as have a negative view (44%).

What began as a Twitter hashtag – in response to stories of abuse at the agency and a spike in arrests of undocumented immigrants – has transformed into a movement of grassroots activists and establishment Democrats alike, calling for reform or elimination of the 15-year-old agency.

“These numbers prove that the movement to abolish ICE is destroying the agency’s credibility,” Sean McElwee, a left-wing activist and pollster who popularised the #AbolishICE twitter campaign, said of the polling in a message to Business Insider. “ICE’s deportation machine is being ground to a halt by thousands of organised activists across the county and its political strength will only grow weaker with time and scrutiny.”

Progressive pundits tend to agree with McElwee that the campaign has been successful.

“Abolish ICE a pretty good example of a calculated political risk that is paying off,” tweeted liberal columnist and Vox editor Matt Yglesiasā€¸ on Tuesday.

Between January and May, there were an average of 3,600 tweets mentioning the hashtag or phrase “Abolish ICE.” In the month of June, there were 77,000 such tweets, according to McElwee’s organisation Data for Progress. The spike in support for the campaign coincided with the Trump administration’s implementation of its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, under which young migrant children were forcibly separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

Last month, Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, introduced the first-ever piece of legislation to eliminate the agency.

But President Donald Trump and many on the right are celebrating the campaign as a political gift – arguing that the position will turn independents and center-left voters away from the Democratic party.

“I hope they keep it up, because we’re going to have a lot of fun in four months and we’re going to have a lot of fun in 2020 running against that,” Trump told the crowd at a Kansas City rally on Tuesday.

While the president and Republican lawmakers have condemned the campaign, Trump has continued his hostility towards the FBI, and the US intelligence community more broadly.

Since Trump took office, Republican faith in the FBI has plummeted. Since early 2017, the portion of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who view the FBI positively has dropped 16 percentage points, from 65% to 49%. An approximately equal share of Republicans now view the bureau favourably as those who view it unfavorably, according to Pew.

Overall, the FBI has a 65% favorability rating, and 77% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning individuals have a positive opinion of the bureau – which is unchanged from a year ago.

The Pew poll surveyed 1,007 adults between July 11-15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.