Public disapproval of President Trump has swelled five points to 58 percent over three months as a majority of Americans continue to hold him and congressional Republicans most responsible for the partial federal government shutdown that ended Friday, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The deal left Trump without a victory in his battle for a border wall but also provided him a chance to keep fighting. Congressional leaders agreed to try to resolve the spending fight over border security in a conference between the Republican-led Senate and Democrat-led House before the continuing resolution expires.
For Trump, the poll illustrates the political damage he sustained as he sought to please his conservative base by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, his top campaign promise.
The Post-ABC poll finds that Trump’s overall popularity has weakened, with 37 percent of the public approving of his job performance and 58 percent disapproving. In the previous Post-ABC poll just before November’s midterm elections in which Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, the approval-disapproval margin was narrower, at 40 percent to 53 percent.
Though the new survey finds that a 54 percent majority of Americans disapprove of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s performance during the shutdown, negative ratings for Trump on this question are higher, at 60 percent. And when asked who is most responsible, 53 percent blame Trump and congressional Republicans, while 34 percent blame Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democrats.
The 19 percentage-point margin of blame is slightly smaller than the 24-point margin in a Post-ABC poll roughly two weeks ago.
Among political independents, disapproval of Trump has grown from 53 percent at the start of November to 63 percent. Independents have also had a lopsided reaction to the shutdown, with 54 percent saying Trump and Republicans are more responsible for it, while 29 percent blame Pelosi and Democrats, a 25-point margin, slightly wider than the public as a whole.
White House aides have expressed concerns in private about Trump’s strategy, fearful that the deepening public impact of the shutdown could prove a long-term drag on his political fortunes as the president begins to focus on his 2020 reelection campaign.
But the president believes his fight for a portion of his wall will resonate deeply with his base, according to aides, and he has been buoyed by support of influential conservatives in Congress and media personalities.
Trump also faces mounting political pressure on other fronts. On Friday, the FBI arrested his longtime associate and informal adviser, Roger Stone, in connection with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In a single tweet, Trump conflated his twin quagmires, calling Mueller’s probe the “Greatest Witch Hunt” in U.S. history and asserting that “Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better.”
Trump has repeatedly warned of a national security and humanitarian crisis at the border, fanning public fears by inflating the dangers posed by undocumented immigrants.
Aides said Trump remains hopeful for a negotiated solution, but he has asserted that he retains the legal right to declare a national emergency at the border, which would potentially allow him to redirect billions of dollars from the Pentagon to fund a border wall project. During his campaign and after he took office, Trump repeatedly vowed that Mexico would pay for the wall.
“I have other alternatives,” Trump told reporters Thursday when asked if he would support a deal to reopen the government without money for a wall. “We have to have a wall in this situation.”
On Friday, the Trump administration launched a new program aimed at forcing migrants seeking asylum at the southern border to wait in Mexico as their immigration court hearings are adjudicated. That process could take months, or even years, because of huge backlogs that have been made worse during the shutdown because immigration judges have been furloughed.
The new procedures, which have been called unlawful by immigrant rights groups, mark the administration’s latest response to a surge of immigrant families from Central America over the past five years — a phenomenon that Trump aides privately acknowledge would not be adequately addressed by a border wall. A record 107,000 family members were apprehended at the border in fiscal 2018 — and most surrender to authorities in hopes of winning asylum.
Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans do not support the wall. The Post-ABC News poll finds that 54 percent oppose the project, with 42 percent supporting it, matching the results of a Post-ABC poll two weeks ago.
A separate question suggests majority support for increased border security efforts in general, with 54 percent saying the United States is doing “too little” to keep undocumented immigrants from coming into the country.
Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, have called the wall “immoral.” They initially offered Trump $1.3 billion in additional border security resources that would not include a barrier — the same amount of funding the Department of Homeland Security received for border security in fiscal 2018. Democrats have proposed raising that amount as long as the money does not go toward a wall.
“If we are going to put money in border security, we should put it into technology, more of the infrared and underground sensors, because they work better than a wall,” said Ramiro Cavazos, president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who was among a group of Latino leaders who met with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner on Thursday to discuss the shutdown negotiations. “We’re not in favor of a wall.”
Asked who they trust more to handle border security, 42 percent say they trust Pelosi and Democrats in Congress, while 40 percent trust Trump and Republicans. By comparison, a fall Post-ABC poll found Republicans overall held a 10-point advantage over Democrats on trust to handle border security among registered voters.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 21-24 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, with 65 percent reached on cellphones and 35 percent on landlines. Overall results have a 3.5 percentage-point margin of sampling error for the full sample.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.