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Trump Has Lost Ground In The Shutdown Blame Game

President Trump again blamed Democrats for the partial government shutdown on Tuesday night, this time in his first primetime national address, saying their unwillingness to approve funds for a border wall had left him no choice but to continue to keep the government shuttered.

Look at the polling data, and you can see why Trump (or his advisers) thought a high-profile move like a national address was needed. We’re currently on Day 19 of the shutdown, but Trump’s efforts to pin the blame on Democrats aren’t working, according to three pollsters who have conducted at least two polls in the two and a half weeks since the government first closed. Rather, polls show that Americans are increasingly blaming Trump.1

Polls conducted in the first few days of the shutdown showed that between 43 percent and 47 percent of Americans blamed Trump most for the shutdown, while about a third blamed congressional Democrats. Polling data had been pretty scarce thereafter, but this week a handful of new polls gave us an updated view of who Americans think is responsible. (We’re looking only at data from pollsters who have conducted two surveys since the shutdown started — one just after it began and one after the new year. This makes for nice apples-to-apples comparisons.)

More Americans blame Trump for the government shutdown

Percentage of respondents who most blame President Trump for the partial government shutdown

First Poll Most Recent Poll
Pollster End Date Blame Trump End Date Blame Trump Change
YouGov Dec. 25 46% Jan. 8 50% +4
Reuters/Ipsos Dec. 25 47 Jan. 7 51 +4
Morning Consult Dec. 23 43 Jan. 6 47 +4

The two YouGov polls found a 4-point increase in those blaming Trump. There was a 4-point increase among registered voters who most blamed Trump in the two Morning Consult polls. And surveys from Reuters/Ipsos also found a 4-point increase.

As for where Democrats stand in the blame-game, Morning Consult found a 2-point increase in those who blame them the most between their two polls, while Ipsos/Reuters found a 1-point drop and YouGov found a 3-point drop.

Blame against Democrats hasn’t changed much

Percentage of respondents who most blame congressional Democrats for the partial government shutdown

First Poll Most Recent Poll
Pollster End Date Blame Democrats End Date Blame Democrats Change
YouGov Dec. 25 35% Jan. 8 32% -3
Reuters/Ipsos Dec. 25 33 Jan. 7 32 -1
Morning Consult Dec. 23 31 Jan. 6 33 +2

Those aren’t huge shifts, but remember that the shutdown began with most Americans blaming Trump — that view is held among a near-majority now, on average.

Still, when it comes to how each group is handling the shutdown, congressional Republicans actually fare the worst. In the most recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, for example — conducted Jan. 4-7 — more Americans disapproved of Trump’s handling of the shutdown (52 percent) than they did of the way Democrats were handling it (46 percent), but 56 percent of Americans expressed disapproval of the congressional GOP’s performance.

There is some good news for Trump. His base seems to largely blame Democrats for the current situation. Seventy-three percent of those who voted for him in 2016 say Democrats are mostly to blame in the shutdown, according to the most recent Morning Consult poll. Eighty-three percent of Trump voters blamed Democrats in the most recent YouGov poll.2 And however the blame shakes out for this shutdown, government shutdowns historically have not had lasting political repercussions, so Trump may weather this latest political maelstrom just fine.

That said, for now the shutdown appears to be hurting Trump. His job approval rating has edged down in the past three weeks — a trend that lines up almost perfectly on the calendar with the shutdown.

Footnotes

  1. A HuffPost/YouGov survey released last Wednesday indicated that more Americans might blame Congress than Trump for the shutdown, but more recent polling hasn’t shown the same thing.

  2. Reuters/Ipsos did not include results among Trump voters in their poll release.

Janie Velencia is a freelance writer focused on survey research. She previously covered the 2016 elections as the associate polling editor for The Huffington Post. Prior to that, Janie managed congressional data and wrote for CQ Roll Call.

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