GW Poll Finds Deep Partisan Divides and No Middle Ground to End Shutdown

January 15, 2019

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Washington, DC/USA – January 10, 2019: Fake Crisis sign at the 177th nightly KremlinAnnex demonstration at the White House.





Issue Priorities by Party

Blog Summary: Immigration and the Shutdown

Press Release


A new GW Politics Poll shows just how hard it will be to re-open the government if that depends on a bipartisan immigration compromise. The poll finds deep division over top policy priorities for Democratic and Republican voters suggesting Congress will continue to be fractured, especially around immigration.

The poll also offers a first look at voter opinions of potential 2020 presidential candidates and a partisan split on whether the White House can ignore congressional subpoenas.

The GW Politics Poll is unique in that it tracked the same group of voters over 2018, interviewing them in May, August, October and December. This is the fourth and final survey in the series that tracked voter opinions in the run-up and directly following the 2018 midterm elections.

Immigration and the Government Shutdown

Immigration, at the center of the government shutdown debate, is Republican voters’ most important issue for the new Congress. Four in five Republicans (80 percent) said immigration should be the top issue for the new Congress. By contrast, only 41 percent of Democrats said immigration was a priority.

Republicans were also very concerned about the situation at the border. Among Republicans, 80 percent were concerned about the group of Central American migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border. Three-quarters (73 percent) of Republicans strongly favored deploying U.S. troops to the southern border to deal with this group of migrants.

“Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided not only on the caravan but on nearly every issue related to immigration that we asked about in this poll,” Kimberly Gross, an associate professor of media and public affairs and GW Politics Poll co-director said.

Partisan Split on House Subpoenas

The new GW poll also examined the ability of the new Democratic-held Congress to subpoena the Trump administration. Asked whether it would be appropriate for the Trump administration to ignore subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives, a majority (60 percent) of voters polled thought it would be inappropriate.

However, when looking at the party affiliation of those polled, a divide emerged. Among Republicans, 40 percent said it would be appropriate for the White House to brush off Congress’ requests, with an additional 24 percent undecided on the matter. In contrast, more than four in five Democrats (82 percent) think it would be inappropriate.

This finding mirrors the vast difference between parties in prioritizing an investigation into President Trump. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of Democrats said it should be a priority for the new Congress, while only 6 percent of Republicans agreed.

2020 Presidential Race Takes Shape

The new edition of the GW Politics Poll, conducted in mid-December 2018, also found a wide open 2020 Democratic presidential nomination race. Former Vice President Joe Biden is an early frontrunner, but many candidates have smaller name recognition, potentially giving them room to alter opinion.

Biden was the only potential Democratic presidential candidate viewed favorably by more than half of those polled (51 percent favorable, 42 percent unfavorable). Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders split voters: 48 percent viewed him favorably, 46 percent were unfavorable. Fewer voters viewed Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren favorably (38 percent) than unfavorably (45 percent).

Most potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates had little name recognition and relatively even splits, including Kamala Harris (31 percent favorable/33 percent unfavorable), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (27/29), Sen. Cory Booker (33/35), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (21/18), Julian Castro (20/23) and Beto O’Rourke (33/31).

On the Republican side, President Donald Trump maintained a consistent public image: 43 percent of those polled viewed him favorably, while 53 percent viewed him unfavorably. Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations, polled strongly with 41 percent of respondents viewing her favorably and only 28 percent unfavorably.

About the Poll

The GW Politics Poll is managed jointly by GW's School of Media and Public Affairs, Graduate School of Political Management and Department of Political Science. YouGov, a respected leader in online polling, conducted the academic, nonpartisan research poll for GW.

This poll was fielded Dec. 11 – 19, 2018, with a sample of 1,920 registered voters. The GW Politics poll interviewed these 1,920 registered voters at four points to track public views over the course of the 2018 election. The first wave in May interviewed 3,150 registered voters and the four-wave re-interview rate was 61 percent.



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