In his first primetime Oval Office speech of his presidency, President Donald Trump doubled down on calls to fund the border wall to address the “growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.”
Over the course of the nine minute speech, Trump claimed that the ongoing government shutdown is the result of Democrats’ unwillingness to fund border security and accused the party of refusing to “acknowledge the crisis” and provide border agents with the tools they need.
But two polls conducted before Trump’s speech suggest that the argument might’ve been a hard sell. A Politico poll found that 47% of voters blame Trump, not Democrats, for the shutdown. Just 5% think Republicans are to blame, while 33% point to Democrats. What’s more, only 42% view the current situation at the southern border as a “crisis,” and just 44% support the construction of a border wall at all. Even if the wall were popular, the poll found, 65% of voters believe Trump shouldn’t shut down the government to secure funding for it.
Meanwhile, a Reuters poll also conducted in the first week of the year found that 51% of Americans believe Trump “deserves most of the blame” for the shutdown. It found a nearly identical 41% support for a border wall, and that only 25% support Trump’s keeping the government closed as a means to secure funding for the wall.
Did Trump’s Oval Office address on Tuesday change any minds? It’s likely too soon to tell, though Trump offered few new points in his speech and many of the arguments he proffered have been disproven. Migrant border crossings, for example, are on the decline—not increasing, as Trump claimed—and the majority of opioids entering the country arrive by mail from China, not illegally through the southern border, as Trump suggested. In regard to threats of terrorism, the State Department recently found “no credible evidence” that terrorist groups had entered the U.S. through Mexico, undercutting Trump’s argument that terrorists are entering the U.S at its southern boundary.
Given Trump’s criticism of rival Democrats, it’s worth nothing that the party has offered $1.3 billion in funding to enhance border security, but its leaders simply don’t support paying for a physical border wall, whether steel or concrete. In her rebuttal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued that Trump’s speech was “full of misinformation and even malice,” accusing him of “holding the American people hostage” by “manufacturing a crisis” to justify the government shutdown.