Most Americans Hold Trump Responsible For Government Shutdown, New Polls Show

The latest surveys find the public increasingly concerned about the standoff and unhappy with everyone in Washington.

Most Americans hold President Donald Trump responsible for the partial government shutdown, according to a slate of just-released surveys, including the fourth wave of HuffPost/YouGov’s shutdown tracking poll.

The share of Americans who regard the shutdown as “very serious” now stands at a new high of 50 percent, the HuffPost/YouGov survey finds, up from 29 percent in an initial survey taken just before Christmas.


Just under a quarter say that they have or they expect to be personally affected by the shutdown. Some hold only general or hazy concerns. But with thousands of workers now missing paychecks, others cite more concrete, imminent harms.

“[Our son] is an essential federal worker with a one year old and no way to buy diapers or baby food,” wrote one Arizona woman, who described her family as devastated by the impact. “He has to work but is not being paid. I am helping him out but my funds are limited too. Also, my son in law is on unpaid leave but luckily my daughter is working full time. But she’s going on maternity leave in March so they won’t have any money, either.”

A Democrat, the woman gave low marks to President Trump and the Republicans for their actions, but said she believed her party was making a good-faith effort to end the standoff.

Views about who’s to blame for the shutdown remain sharply divided along partisan lines. Another woman surveyed also said her family members are going unpaid. She described herself as very concerned about the shutdown and held the president and both parties in Congress at least somewhat responsible. But as a Republican, she also backed Trump’s desire to hold out for a border wall and believed that he and his congressional allies were working to bring the shutdown to an end.

Everyone In Washington Is Playing Politics

Overall, as in previous HuffPost/YouGov surveys, Americans give everyone in Washington low marks for their handling of the shutdown ― but the GOP is faring especially badly. Americans are 45 percentage points likelier to disapprove than to approve of the performance by Congress as a whole. They disapprove of congressional Republicans by a 29-point margin, of Trump by a 17-point margin and of congressional Democrats by a 13-point margin. Members of the public are close to evenly split on how they feel about the performance of their own representatives.


In the newest HuffPost/YouGov poll, 57 percent of Americans say they hold Trump at least partially responsible for the shutdown, an uptick from the 49 to 51 percent who have said the same in previous weeks. The 44 percent of the public who assign some responsibility to the Democrats and the 39 percent who point to the Republicans are less changed from previous surveys, although the GOP number is slightly increased.

Americans say by a 23-point margin that Republicans are playing politics rather than working in good faith to end the shutdown. They say the same of Trump by a 19-point margin and of Democrats by a 14-point margin.

But Trump Is Most To Blame

Several other polls about the shutdown have also been released since Friday. Taken together, they paint a consistent picture that’s also in accordance with earlier surveys: When asked who’s most to blame for the shutdown, Americans largely point their fingers at the president. Some of the highlights:

―In a CNN/SSRS poll released Sunday morning, 55 percent of Americans hold Trump mostly responsible for the shutdown, with 32 percent blaming congressional Democrats and 9 percent saying both are responsible. Fifty-six percent of Americans say they oppose building a wall along the border with Mexico.

―Americans “reject the president’s assertion that there is an illegal-immigration crisis on the southern border,” according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey released Sunday. In that survey, 53 percent of Americans say Trump and the Republicans are mainly to blame for the shutdown, with 29 percent calling Democrats mostly at fault, and 13 percent believing both sides share equal responsibility. A 54 percent majority oppose building a border wall, although that’s down from 63 percent in a Post/ABC survey taken last year ― the change is due largely to increased support among Republicans.

―Trump, Democrats and Republicans “all draw lackluster marks for their handling of the government shutdown,” according to a CBS/YouGov survey out Friday. Forty-seven percent say that Trump is most to blame, 30 percent that Democrats are, 3 percent that Republicans are, and 20 percent that all share the blame equally. Two-thirds of Americans don’t think Trump should declare a national emergency to pay for a wall if one isn’t funded by Congress.

―Three-quarters of the public, including most Republicans, think the shutdown is “embarrassing for the country,” per an NPR/Ipsos survey released Friday. About 7 in 10 agree that the shutdown will hurt the country and economy, with a similar number saying Congress should pass a bill to reopen the government now while budget talks continue. Just 31 percent want the government to remain closed until a border wall is funded.

Reuters/Ipsos tracking finds that 51 percent majority of Americans now give Trump the most blame for the shutdown, up from about 46 percent at its start. Democrats receive about 32 percent of the blame and Republicans about 7 percent.

(A methodology sidenote: The new Post/ABC and CNN/SSRS polls are also notable for being the first of this shutdown to be conducted using traditional live-interviewer phone calls, rather than cheaper methods such as online surveys. That fact highlights how much the face of political polling has changed since the 1995 shutdown, when pollsters like Gallup were conducting multiple surveys a week on the political ramifications of the government’s closure. Gallup, under new leadership, recently announced it would “discontinue almost all ‘spot’ polls in the U.S. — overnight polls, usually political, of immediate front-page interest.”)

What Are The Political Implications?

As is often true in polling, the framing of a question about the shutdown can have a significant effect on the responses.

Survey questions about who’s responsible are a case in point. Some polls have asked Americans to pick between blaming Trump, Democrats or Republicans. In those surveys, very few respondents name congressional Republicans as the group primarily to blame.

But does that mean people are inclined to let the Republicans off easy? The Post/ABC survey, which instead ties Trump and the congressional GOP together, finds them mutually shouldering the blame. And in the HuffPost/YouGov poll, GOP legislators’ overall marks on the shutdown are actually worse than either Trump’s or their Democratic counterparts’.

Neither format for those questions is inherently wrong. But it does matter which of those frames manages to best represent the way ordinary people are thinking about the shutdown when they’re not fielding direct questions about it from pollsters.

So far, despite the claim of Trump’s campaign manager that the shutdown has boosted the president’s numbers, there’s little publicly available data to suggest that the shutdown has been politically helpful to anyone. At best, surveys show Trump’s numbers remaining more or less stagnant. Several poll aggregators, meanwhile, have found Trump’s disapproval rating rising modestly in the new year, albeit remaining well within the narrow range of approval ratings seen in his presidency thus far.

As hazy as the immediate political impact of the shutdown may be, its implications for the future are still more unclear. In the past, those effects have often been ephemeral. The 2013 government shutdown sent ratings for the Republican Party falling to historic lows, but faded quickly from public memory and didn’t prevent the GOP from claiming victory in the midterms a year later. As the current shutdown stretches on, however, there’s still room for that calculus to change.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Jan. 12 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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