The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Most Americans oppose the wall — and oppose ending the shutdown by funding it

Since 2015, President Trump has proposed no fewer than 13 ways Mexico would pay for a southern border wall. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

It’s been nearly a month now that significant parts of the federal government have been shuttered, a fight that began when President Trump suddenly decided to dig in his heels on his campaign promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico. In the weeks since, that’s been the central issue: Will Democrats accede to Trump’s demand that additional money be appropriated for constructing a wall? For all of the talk about border security and the composition of that wall, this underlying debate hasn’t changed.

A poll from Pew Research Center released Wednesday shows that opposition to the wall continues to be robust. Forty percent of respondents favor an expansion of the wall, Pew found, with a 58 percent majority opposing it.

But Pew went a step further, revealing particularly bad news for Trump and the Republicans. Pew then asked respondents whether they would be willing to see the shutdown end by compromising their position. That is, if you oppose the wall, would you support ending the shutdown by spending money on its construction or, if you support the wall, would you approve of ending the shutdown by giving up on funding it?

About 7 in 10 of those who support the wall said they would oppose any compromise. But nearly 9 in 10 of those who oppose the wall said they, too, wanted to stick to their guns — meaning that, overall, more than half the country both opposes the wall and opposes compromising on that position.

Opposition to Trump’s position is so robust that the number of people who oppose the wall but think a compromise is acceptable is lower than the portion of Trump’s supporters who would accept a deal that didn’t include wall funding.

Yet Trump seemingly remains obstinate. Pew’s research offers one explanation: Conservative Republicans, more than any other group, see the shutdown as not being that significant a problem. About 4 in 10 say the shutdown is not too big a problem or not a problem at all. Overall, 20 percent of Americans hold those positions — while more than half say it’s a serious problem.

Trump also seems to think that he’s winning the fight. In a tweet on Tuesday, he celebrated the results of a Quinnipiac University poll that showed most Americans see the border as a humanitarian or security crisis.

What Trump skipped in that poll, though, were a lot of other indicators that this fight isn’t going very well for him. We explored it on Monday. Some highlights:

  • His Oval Office address didn’t change any minds.
  • A recent trend of increasing support for the wall has stalled since the shutdown began.
  • Most Americans support the Democratic strategy of reopening most of the government and separating out the wall debate.
  • Most respondents said that the wall wasn’t necessary to protect the border or to make the country safer.

Over the course of his presidency, Trump has demonstrated a single-minded focus on his base, a group that, in this case, likely makes up most of that 29 percent of the country that backs Trump and doesn’t want him to compromise.

There’s another constituency to which Trump is likely responding: conservative media. In December, Trump originally changed his mind on picking a fight over the wall after hearing negative feedback from conservative commentators. Now, his preferred cable news network is consistently reporting that his fight is going well.

Pew and other pollsters say it isn’t. But it’s safe to assume that Trump spends less time considering national polls than he does watching Fox News.