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Poll: Border Wall Fight Should Not Prompt Government Shutdown

Majority say it’s more important to keep the government running

A view of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Tijuana, Mexico, in January. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images file photo)
A view of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Tijuana, Mexico, in January. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images file photo)

A new Economist Group/YouGov poll found that a majority of Americans think it’s most important for Congress to avoid a government shutdown, even if it means leaving behind a proposal to start construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The opt-in, online poll found that 19 percent of those surveyed want Congress to come up with the $3 billion requested by President Donald Trump for a border wall, even if it prompts a government shutdown. But 60 percent think it’s more important to keep the government running past an April 28 deadline when a continuing resolution runs out. Another 22 percent are unsure.

The poll, conducted April 12 and 13, surveyed 1,000 Americans 18 and older in web-based interviews. It had a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points. CQ Roll Call is owned by The Economist Group.

Trump is pushing for funding for the wall as part of a massive spending bill lawmakers want to pass this month before current government funding expires. Just four legislative days when both chambers are in session remain for action after Congress returns from its recess.

If disagreements boil over, lawmakers could pass another stopgap funding bill that keeps programs essentially on autopilot while negotiations continue. But fiscal 2017 ends Sept. 30 and fiscal 2018 is encroaching.

Broken down by party, 29 percent of Republicans surveyed say it’s most important for Congress to provide money to begin construction of the wall, even if it means a government shutdown. But the majority of Republicans, 55 percent, want the government funded above all else.

Democrats, at 79 percent, feel strongly that the government should be funded to prevent a shutdown,  versus 49 percent for independents. Only 7 percent of Democrats think funding the U.S.-border wall is a top priority, even if a shutdown ensues.

But the debate is not grabbing public attention. Just 12 percent of all those questioned said they’re following the spending debate “very closely,” and 31 percent said “somewhat closely.” That’s less than the combined 57 percent who are either not following it very closely (35 percent) or aren’t following it at all (22 percent).

Defense boost

While a defense spending increase is a key priority for Republicans in Congress and for Trump, the survey shows the largest contingent of those surveyed — 47 percent — want defense funding kept level or decreased. That’s in contrast to the combined 34 percent of people who want “a lot” for a defense boost (14 percent) or a little more (20 percent). Another 20 percent aren’t sure.

Even more stratification occurs when people are asked about domestic funding. The highest percentage for any level of interest on this issue is tied — the 20 percent want to keep funding level and 20 percent who aren’t sure. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed want some kind of increase, either a lot or a little. And 28 percent want some kind of decrease.

But when it comes to Trump’s proposal to boost defense spending by $54 billion and seek cuts in the same amount in domestic spending, opponents prevailed.

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they opposed that idea strongly (33 percent) or opposed it somewhat (15 percent). Strong support came from 16 percent of respondents and 18 percent supported the effort somewhat.

Arts cuts

Trump has also proposed to eliminate all federal funding for public broadcasting and arts agencies, but that didn’t draw much support in the poll. The targets are the Public Broadcasting Service, National Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Forty-nine percent of respondents either oppose somewhat or oppose strongly Trump’s proposal, including 35 percent who oppose that idea strongly and 14 percent somewhat. There are 33 percent who support such cuts either strongly (18 percent) or somewhat (15 percent). But another 18 percent are unsure.

Asked which federal agency they’d choose to eliminate if required, the top pick was the Department of the Interior, at 16 percent.

But people are widely split on the question, with the Department of Education (13 percent) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (12 percent) the next runners-up.

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