Americans blame President Donald Trump and GOP more than Democrats for shutdown: Poll

Concerning the allocation of blame, 53 per cent say US President Donald Trump and the Republicans are mainly at fault, and 29 per cent blame the Democrats in Congress.
Concerning the allocation of blame, 53 per cent say US President Donald Trump and the Republicans are mainly at fault, and 29 per cent blame the Democrats in Congress.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - By a wide margin, more Americans blame President Donald 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 per cent say they support a wall, up from 34 per cent in January last year. A slight majority of Americans (54 per cent) oppose the idea, down from 63 per cent a year ago.

The increase in support is sharpest among Republicans, whose backing for Mr Trump's longstanding campaign promise jumped 16 points in the past year, from 71 per cent to 87 per cent. Not only has GOP support increased, it has also hardened. Today, 70 per cent of Republicans say they strongly support the wall, an increase of 12 points since January last year.

Concerning the allocation of blame, 53 per cent say Mr Trump and the Republicans are mainly at fault, and 29 per cent blame the Democrats in Congress. Thirteen per cent say both sides bear equal responsibility for the shutdown. That is identical to the end of the 16-day shutdown in 2013, when 29 per cent blamed then-president Barack Obama and 53 per cent put the responsibility on congressional Republicans.

A predictable partisan divide shapes the blame game, with 85 per cent of Democrats citing Mr Trump and Republicans as the cause and 68 per cent 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 per cent to 23 per cent.

 
 
 
 

Women blame Mr 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 stand-off. Neither the President nor Democratic congressional leaders have shown any willingness to compromise. Republicans in Congress continue to show support for Mr Trump's positions.

Last week, the talks broke down during a contentious meeting at the White House at which Mr Trump walked out when told by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 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 per cent say they have been inconvenienced, including 7 per cent who say it has been a major problem.

If the shutdown continues for several months, as the President has threatened, 38 per cent of Americans say they would consider that a crisis, 41 per cent say it would be a serious problem but not a crisis, and 18 per cent say it would not be a serious problem.

Partisan differences also shape the choices ahead. Of the 54 per cent of Americans who oppose the wall, 27 per cent say Democrats should continue to resist Mr Trump's demands for US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) for a barrier, and 23 per cent say Democrats should compromise with the President.

Of those 42 per cent who support the wall, 24 per cent say Mr Trump should continue to demand the level of funding he has asked for, and 16 per cent say he should strike a deal with the Democrats.

Overall, Democrats appear somewhat more conciliatory than Republicans. The poll finds that 42 per cent of Democrats who oppose the wall say congressional Democrats should refuse to budge even if it extends the shutdown; 37 per cent say they should compromise with Mr Trump. Among Republicans, 58 per cent both support the wall and say Mr Trump should continue to demand funding, compared with 22 per cent who say he should compromise to end the shutdown.

Mr Trump has threatened repeatedly to declare a national emergency to break the stalemate and to order the start of construction of a wall, although last Friday, he retreated from his previously aggressive rhetoric by noting that he is not ready to take such a step now.

The President faces sizeable opposition from the public were he to do so. By more than 2-1 (66 per cent to 31 per cent), Americans say they oppose invoking an emergency to build a border wall. The poll finds 51 per cent say they strongly oppose such a declaration. However, two-thirds of Republicans would support the President's decision to use those powers.

In a nationally televised address he delivered from the Oval Office last Tuesday (Jan 8), Mr Trump asserted that there is a humanitarian and security crisis at the border because of illegal immigration. Nearly half of all Americans (47 per cent) say there is a serious problem at the border but decline to call it a crisis. Just under a quarter label the current situation a crisis.

Almost half of all Republicans (49 per cent) say the situation at the border is a crisis, and 43 per cent say it is serious but not a crisis. Among Democrats, just 7 per cent say the situation amounts to a crisis, and 52 per cent say conditions are serious. Roughly one-fifth of independents agree with Mr Trump's characterisation, and about half say things are serious but are not a crisis.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted from last Tuesday to last Friday among a random national sample of 788 Americans reached on mobile phones and landline phones. The overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.