As the partial government shutdown nears the one-month mark, there have been a number of public opinion polls examining how the public feels about the shutdown, which was sparked by a funding standoff over President Donald Trump’s proposal for a new wall along the border with Mexico.
Six high-quality polls have been released this week touching on Trump, the shutdown, the Democrats in Congress and the wall.
Most confirmed what we already knew from before the shutdown started: Opposition to a border wall is widespread and deep. But beyond that general opposition, the new polls offer some consistent results, including:
- Blame, in the public’s mind, rests largely at the White House
- Many object to the shutdown, especially as a tactic to build the wall,
- Few see a wall as an effective way to combat undocumented immigration.
About half of Americans (51%) said it would be unacceptable if the only way to end the shutdown was to pass a bill that includes Trump’s requested funding for the border wall, according to a Pew Research Center poll released on Wednesday. On the other side, 29% said it would be unacceptable for the only end to the shutdown to come via a bill that does not include the president’s requested funding for the wall.
Multiple other polls show similar sentiments, including a Quinnipiac University finding that 61% of voters would support a bill funding new border security measures without funding a wall, including 36% of Republicans, 78% of Democrats and two-thirds of independents.
Seven-in-ten Americans said that shutting down the federal government in order to reach an agreement on government policy is a bad strategy and only 22% thought it was a good strategy, according to a PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
So, Americans oppose the strategy of shutting down the government, but is that because of the wall itself? Or the government? Probably both.
Further, the Pew survey found that only about a third of Americans (34%) said that expanding the wall would lead to a major reduction in illegal immigration to the US and, according to Quinnipiac’s poll, 43% of voters feel a wall is an effective way to protect the border. Both polls found sharp partisan divides on the matter: In the Pew study, 69% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said it would reduce illegal immigration vs. just 7% among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, and Quinnipiac’s results show 87% of Republicans consider the wall effective protection for the border, while 95% of Democrats say it is not.
It’s becoming clear that the shutdown is an issue for American’s perceptions of the government. In a Gallup poll released Wednesday, the number who cited the government as the most important problem facing the country today went up from 19% in December to 29% in January. But even this is driven by partisanship. In the Pew poll, 79% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the government shutdown is a “very serious” problem for the country, just 35% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents feel the same.
Majorities disapprove of the way Trump (61%), Republicans in Congress (60%) and Democrats in Congress (53%) are handling negotiations over the shutdown, according to Pew Research.
And most Americans are blaming Trump for the shutdown. In each of four polls that asked respondents to place blame, majorities said that lies with the President, while about a third in each cited Democrats in Congress as primarily responsible.
The President’s overall approval has definitely taken a hit, too. Not all polls showed a substantial downturn from where he was in December to where he is now, but taken together there is clear downward movement in his ratings. One of his biggest losses has been among white Americans without college degrees, an important base for Trump. In the new polls, four surveys conducted among all adults found approval ratings below 40%. Back in December, before the shutdown began, polls conducted using the same methodology found a wider range of approval ratings, including several over 40%. Each of those findings on their own wouldn’t amount to much, but the consensus across polls suggests real movement in the public opinion.