WASHINGTON — A strong majority of Americans blame President Donald Trump for the record-long government shutdown and reject his primary rationale for a border wall, according to a new poll that shows the turmoil in Washington is dragging his approval rating to its lowest level in more than a year.
Overall, 34 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance in a survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s down from 42 percent a month earlier and nears the lowest mark of his two-year presidency. The president’s approval among Republicans remains close to 80 percent, but his standing with independents is among its lowest points of his time in office.
“Trump is responsible for this,” said poll respondent Lloyd Rabalais, a federal contractor from Slidell, Louisiana, who’s not affiliated with either political party.
The 47-year-old has been furloughed for more than a month. He said he’d need to start drawing on his retirement savings next week to pay his bills if the shutdown continues.
“I do support a wall, but not the way he’s handling it,” Rabalais added. “Trump guaranteed everybody that Mexico would pay for the wall. Now he’s holding American workers like me hostage.”
The drop in approval comes as Trump begins the third year of his presidency under the weight of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, an international trade war that’s straining the global economy and new revelations about his push for a real estate deal in Russia during his 2016 campaign.
Compared with earlier presidents, Trump’s approval rating has been relatively stable over the course of his presidency, ranging from the mid-30s to the mid-40s.
By contrast, President Barack Obama never fell below 40 percent in polling by Gallup. Still, five presidents since Gallup began measuring presidential approval have had their rating fall into the 20s at least once, including Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Trump has never fallen into that range of historic lows, but he’s also the only president never to have reached 50 percent in Gallup’s polling.
The new AP-NORC poll shows most Americans see the shutdown as a major problem, and they blame Trump far more than congressional Democrats for the mess that has ensnared the lives of roughly 800,000 government workers who are going without pay.
Sixty percent of Americans say Trump bears a great deal of responsibility for the shutdown. About a third place the same amount of blame on congressional Democrats (31 percent) or Republicans (36 percent).
Sixty-five percent of Americans, including 86 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents and 33 percent of Republicans, call the shutdown a major problem.
Trump may be popular overall with Republicans, but a sizable share holds him responsible for the current situation. Almost 3 in 10 Republicans think Trump bears a great deal of responsibility, while 73 percent of his party says he’s at least partly responsible.
“The large part of the responsibility belongs to the president because he made the decision,” said poll respondent Sandra Olson of Northwood, Iowa. The 76-year-old registered Republican said she voted for Trump once and likely will again.
“We have never in my lifetime seen a president who has been so maligned and attacked and vilified,” Olson said.
Trump’s demand for a $5.7 billion border wall is also unpopular.
Overall, 49 percent of Americans oppose the plan to build a massive wall along the Mexican border; 36 percent of the nation is in favor. Opinions fall largely along ideological lines, with 8 in 10 Democrats opposing the wall and nearly 8 in 10 Republicans supporting it.
About 7 in 10 supporters of the wall prefer to extend the shutdown than to reach a deal without funding it, while a nearly identical number on the other side would rather the shutdown continue than provide that funding.
The poll shows significant skepticism of the president’s argument that a wall would significantly reduce crime, stem the flow of illegal drugs or help the U.S. economy. The poll was conducted the week after Trump used such factors to justify his demand for the wall during a primetime address from the Oval Office.
In the nationally televised speech, he highlighted the case of one immigrant in the country illegally accused of beheading and dismembering an American citizen.
About 6 in 10 Americans do say the wall would at least slightly decrease the number of people entering the U.S. illegally, though only 3 in 10 think the number would significantly decrease. Yet just 35 percent of Americans believe the wall would make the country safer, while a majority of Americans — 57 percent— believe it would make no difference to safety in the U.S. Only 21 percent believe the wall would significantly reduce the availability of illegal drugs in the nation, though 28 percent say access to illegal drugs would be slightly reduced; 49 percent say the wall would have no effect.
On the economy, about as many Americans say the border wall would do more to help — almost 3 in 10 — as say it would do more to hurt; 43 percent say the wall would not make much difference to the U.S. economy.
Poll respondent Kelley Thorson of St. Robert, Missouri, who backed Trump in the 2016 election, said she supports the wall but largely disagrees with the president’s rationale.
“I can’t say it would make us safer,” the 57-year-old said. “Criminals are going to get here no matter what.”
While partisan opinions of Trump have remained relatively constant throughout his presidency, the poll shows that disapproval has grown particularly among independents who do not lean toward either party.
Just 28 percent of independents say they approve, compared with 71 percent who disapprove. In December, 37 percent of independents approved of Trump’s job performance, while 58 percent disapproved.
Women also are more likely to disapprove today, compared with a month ago — 71 percent to 58 percent. And 76 percent of college graduates disapprove today, compared with 65 percent who disapproved in December.
The president isn’t doing anything well right now, said poll respondent J. Edwin Hixson, a 71-year-old retired truck driver from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who didn’t vote for Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
“This isn’t a reality show. We’re in serious trouble,” he said.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,062 adults was conducted Jan. 16 to 20 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.