By a wide margin, more Americans blame President Trump and Republicans in Congress than congressional Democrats for the now record-breaking government shutdown, and most reject the president’s assertion that there is an illegal-immigration crisis on the southern border, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Support for building a wall on the border, which is the principal sticking point in the stalemate between the president and Democrats, has increased over the past year. Today, 42 percent say they support a wall, up from 34 percent last January. A slight majority of Americans (54 percent) oppose the idea, down from 63 percent a year ago.
The increase in support is sharpest among Republicans, whose backing for Trump’s long-standing campaign promise jumped 16 points in the past year, from 71 percent to 87 percent. Not only has GOP support increased, it has also hardened. Today, 70 percent of Republicans say they strongly support the wall, an increase of 12 points since January 2018.
Concerning the allocation of blame, 53 percent say Trump and the Republicans are mainly at fault, and 29 percent blame the Democrats in Congress. Thirteen percent say both sides bear equal responsibility for the shutdown. That is identical to the end of the 16-day shutdown in 2013, when 29 percent blamed then-President Barack Obama and 53 percent put the responsibility on congressional Republicans.
A predictable partisan divide shapes the blame game, with 85 percent of Democrats citing Trump and Republicans as the cause and 68 percent of Republicans pointing the finger at congressional Democrats. Independents fix the blame squarely on the president and his party rather than on the Democrats, by 53 percent to 23 percent. Women blame Trump and Republicans by a margin of 35 points, and men blame the president and the GOP by 13 points.
The deep partisan divide over who bears responsibility for the partial shutdown and over the wall itself is likely to have contributed to the length of the standoff. Neither the president nor Democratic congressional leaders have shown any willingness to compromise. Republicans in Congress continue to show support for Trump’s positions.
Last week, the talks broke down during a contentious meeting at the White House at which Trump walked out when told by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that she would continue to oppose the wall in border security negotiations, even if the government was reopened. As of this weekend, there is still no clear path ahead to end the shutdown.
At this point, most Americans say they are not feeling the effects of the shutdown. Eighteen percent say they have been inconvenienced, including 7 percent who say it has been a major problem.
If the shutdown continues for several months, as the president has threatened, 38 percent of Americans say they would consider that a crisis, 41 percent say it would be a serious problem but not a crisis, and 18 percent say it would not be a serious problem.
Partisan differences also shape the choices ahead. Of the 54 percent of Americans who oppose the wall, 27 percent say Democrats should continue to resist Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion for a barrier, and 23 percent say Democrats should compromise with the president.
Of those 42 percent who support the wall, 24 percent say Trump should continue to demand the level of funding he has asked for, and 16 percent say he should strike a deal with the Democrats.
Overall, Democrats appear somewhat more conciliatory than Republicans. The poll finds that 42 percent of Democrats who oppose the wall say congressional Democrats should refuse to budge even if it extends the shutdown; 37 percent say they should compromise with Trump. Among Republicans, 58 percent both support the wall and say Trump should continue to demand funding, compared with 22 percent who say he should compromise to end the shutdown.
Trump has threatened repeatedly to declare a national emergency to break the stalemate and to order the start of construction of a wall, although on Friday, he retreated from his previously aggressive rhetoric by noting that he is not ready to take such a step now.
The president faces sizable opposition from the public were he to do so. By more than 2-1 (66 percent to 31 percent), Americans say they oppose invoking an emergency to build a border wall. The poll finds 51 percent say they strongly oppose such a declaration. However, two-thirds of Republicans would support the president’s decision to use those powers.
In his nationally televised address he delivered from the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump asserted that there is a humanitarian and security crisis at the border because of illegal immigration. Nearly half of all Americans (47 percent) say there is a serious problem at the border but decline to call it a crisis. Just under a quarter (24 percent) label the current situation a crisis.
Almost half of all Republicans (49 percent) say the situation at the border is a crisis, and 43 percent say it is serious but not a crisis. Among Democrats, just 7 percent say the situation amounts to a crisis, and 52 percent say conditions are serious. Roughly one-fifth of independents agree with Trump’s characterization, and about half say things are serious but are not a crisis.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted Jan. 8-11 among a random national sample of 788 Americans reached on cellular and landline phones. The overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.