Fox News Poll: Voters see shutdown as bigger problem than border situation

Most voters consider the partial government shutdown a major problem or, even worse, an emergency, according to a new Fox News Poll.

After a 33-day stalemate over the funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, the poll also finds an uptick in support for President Trump’s most memorable campaign promise:  43 percent now favor the wall, up from 39 percent in September.  Fifty-one percent oppose the wall (unchanged).

In a televised meeting in December, Trump told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that, “I will be the one to shut it down. I won’t blame you for it.”  The poll finds a slim 51 percent majority says the president indeed is responsible for the shutdown, while 34 percent blame congressional Democrats, 3 percent blame congressional Republicans, and 9 percent blame all of the above.

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More voters say the federal shutdown is a bigger issue than the border: 75 percent consider the shutdown an emergency or major problem.  That’s far more than the 59 percent who feel the same about the situation at the border.

Large numbers of both Democrats (81 percent) and Republicans (74 percent) describe the shutdown as an emergency or major problem.  On the border situation, Republicans (87 percent) are 50 points more likely than Democrats (37 percent) to call it an emergency or major problem.

The perceived gravity of the shutdown doesn’t translate into a bipartisan urgency to end it.  Rather, more than one third of wall opponents (37 percent) want Democrats to keep the government shuttered until Trump gives in, while two-thirds of pro-wall voters (69 percent) want Trump to keep the government shut until Democrats give in.

“One interesting dynamic is the pro-wall people are much more likely to want to go the distance on the shutdown than the anti-wall people,” says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News Poll with Democrat Chris Anderson. “It seems the Democrats would pay a lesser price for compromising, but many Democratic lawmakers think compromising would encourage Trump to play brinksmanship again on other issues.”

Approval of President Trump’s job performance stands at 43 percent, down three points from 46 percent in December.  This marks his lowest approval in nearly a year; it was 43 percent in February 2018.  Currently, 54 percent of voters disapprove of the job he’s doing.  Disapproval has been higher twice:  57 percent in October 2017 and 55 percent in August 2017.

His approval is at or near record lows among men (45 percent) and “very conservative” voters (83 percent).  Since last month, approval dropped 10 points among both Republican women (from 93 to 83 percent) and suburban men (from 53 to 43 percent), and 7 points among white evangelical Christians (from 78 to 71 percent).

Approval of Congress stands much lower: 18 percent, down from 23 percent in October 2018.  Two-thirds, 67 percent, disapprove.  That said, more voters feel extremely “frustrated and upset” with Trump (41 percent) than congressional Republicans (33 percent) or congressional Democrats (31 percent).

While almost all Democrats (90 percent) blame Trump or congressional Republicans for the shutdown, GOP voters point to congressional Democrats (70 percent) and the president or congressional Republicans (16 percent).

Ten percent of voters say the shutdown has caused their family “severe” hardship, and another 20 percent say “moderate” hardship.

Federal workers are expected to miss their second paycheck January 25.  Fifty-four percent of voters say they couldn’t miss more than two paychecks before having trouble paying bills.  That includes one in five, 20 percent, who live paycheck-to-paycheck and can’t miss one payday.

Eight in 10 voters are worried about “what’s going on in Washington these days” (79 percent extremely or very concerned).  The only bigger concern is the price of health care (85 percent).

Despite a majority opposing the border wall, the poll finds large numbers backing another border security measure.  Seventy-three percent favor increasing the number of agents along the southern border, including 58 percent of voters who oppose the wall.

Voters don’t like the president’s suggestion of bypassing Congress and declaring a national emergency as a way to build the wall:  36 percent support vs. 56 percent opposed.  Opposition includes 17 percent of Trump voters, 23 percent of Republicans, and 85 percent of Democrats.

Pollpourri

The back-and-forth between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes beyond details of the shutdown.  Trump cancelled an overseas trip Pelosi planned after the speaker suggested he reschedule the state of the union address (set for January 29).  The poll asks voters who is better at “Washington gamesmanship,” and finds Pelosi (41 percent) edges Trump (35 percent) by 6 points (8 percent both, 8 percent neither and 9 percent unsure).  Republicans (17 percent) are nearly twice as likely to pick Pelosi as Democrats (10 percent) are to say Trump.

“Trump is acting like his next election is a Republican primary,” says Anderson. “He is fighting for a wall that is a losing issue outside of his party, at the expense of everything else.  It is no wonder Americans think Pelosi is better at political gamesmanship than he is.”

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Despite the shutdown, 56 percent say Trump should deliver the state of the union as usual, including 81 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents, and 29 percent of Democrats.  Thirty-three percent of voters think he should skip it.

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cellphone interviews with 1,008 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) (formerly named Anderson Robbins Research) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from January 20-22, 2019.  The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all registered voters.