How Americans are Responding to the Shutdown

As the most recent government shutdown continues, Americans are back from the holiday break, watching the news, and forming opinions about who exactly is to blame for our current federal dysfunction. Taking a look at some key polling indicators, we can see that while Americans know the shutdown is happening — and even who’s to blame — opinions are changing as it continues.

According to three polls taken before Christmas in the first days of the shutdown, President Trump was clearly deemed “at fault.” A Reuters poll taken between December 21-25, 2018 showed 47 percent of Americans blaming Trump, with just 33 percent holding Congressional Democrats responsible. This lined up with a YouGov poll that showed 46 percent of Americans found Trump as most responsible for the shutdown, and a Morning Consult poll that found 43 percent of Americans blaming the President.

But while many blamed Trump early on, Congressional Democrats have seen their support wane as the shutdown continues. A HuffPost/YouGov poll taken one week into the shutdown gave low marks to everyone, with just 18 percent of respondents approving of how Congress has handled the shutdown. While 49 percent disapproved of President Trump, 51 percent disapproved of Congressional Democrats. That same poll indicated an increase in support for the President, the only person to come out net positive. It seems that while Americans know who’s to blame for the shutdown initially, who’s causing it to continue is less clear.

Another important indicator to consider is, despite who’s to blame, do Americans believe the shutdown is warranted and support the end goal, ie a border wall? The same Reuters poll conducted at the shutdown’s start showed that just 35 percent of Americans support funding for a wall, with even less (25 percent) supporting a government shutdown over the issue. That compares with a Rasmussen poll conducted on December 12-13, 2018, over a week before the shutdown, that showed 46 percent of voters in support of a wall, with 39 percent supporting a shutdown.

But while Americans might not support a wall, or a shutdown, immigration remains a top issue they want Congress to work on this year. An Associated Press poll taken at the beginning of 2019 showed 49 percent of Americans mentioned immigration as one of the top five issues they hope the government addresses. That compares to just 27 percent in December 2017. While Republicans are more likely to cite the issue than Democrats, the issue has risen in priority among both parties in the last year.

And while Americans are overwhelmingly aware of the government shutdown, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, just 9 percent say it has had a major impact on their lives, with 63 percent saying it’s had no impact at all.

To sum up: Americans blame Trump for starting the shutdown, but seem to believe everyone’s at fault for its continuation. They want immigration addressed, but support for the current situation is low. To make it more complicated, while most Americans know about the shutdown, very few are affected by it.

As with most issues, nuance reigns. Americans are looking for the slightest hint of empathy from elected leaders as well as a sliver of a solution.

Immigration Resource

Compassion for migrants and enforcement of national immigration and border control laws are not mutually exclusive. Find solutions to this current policy conundrum via our Immigration backgrounder found here.