Just 38 percent of American voters say they support building a wall across the border with Mexico, according to a new survey from Pew Research. This is a considerable drop since September, when almost half of voters, 46 percent, said they supported building a wall.
For the last nine years Pew has asked the question, support for a border wall with Mexico has been constant at around 46 percent. The drop coincides with Donald Trump’s dominance of the Republican primary campaign. Trump has made construction of the wall a central message of his campaign.
The apparent drop in support for a wall is visible among Republicans voters. In September, an overwhelming 73 percent of Republican voters wanted to build a wall with Mexico. Today, apparent support has dropped to 67 percent.
Over the last seven years, Republican support for a border wall with Mexico had steadily increased, rising 11 points since 2007. Republican support for building a wall is now just a few points higher than it was at the beginning of 2007.
It seems, counter-intuitively, that Donald Trump’s rise in the political landscape, fueled in large part by his advocacy of a border wall, has caused a drop in public support for that wall. His association with the wall has made it highly-charged politically.
Just a few years ago, 39 percent of Democrats said they supported building a border wall. That support has collapsed to just 13 percent today.
While support for a border wall has declined generally, Trump has maintained his hold on the Republican nomination by pulling together a block of voters who support it. Among Trump supporters, 84 percent support building a wall. This is far higher than the 64 percent of Cruz supporters and 45 percent of Kasich supporters who support a wall.
Trump’s rise has also galvanized Democrat opposition to a wall. Only 15 percent of Hillary Clinton’s supporters say they want to build a wall with Mexico, while only eight percent of Sanders’ supporters want a wall.
Voter support for building a wall has been steady for the past seven years. The wall’s close association is suffering with growing backlash to the Trump campaign. According to Gallup, 58 percent of male voters now have an unfavorable view of the GOP frontrunner. His favorable ratings have fallen to 36 percent with men, giving him a -22 favorable rating.
Among female voters, Trump’s numbers are far worse, with 70 percent having a negative view of him. His favorable rating with female voters has dropped to 23 percent. His -47 favorable rating with women is unprecedented for a major party candidate.
The dropping support for a border wall, then, is probably more a statement about the Trump candidacy than the issue of a wall itself.
There has been no change, for instance, in the number of voters who told Pew that they think illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country or be deported. Overall numbers on immigration have changed little in the last six months, although more Republicans believe illegal immigrants should be deported now.
Frontrunners for a party nomination generally see voters increasing their support of a candidate’s signature issues. The issue draws a lot of attention and discussion and becomes associated with a campaign that is winning.
Attitudes towards a border wall today, however, tell a different story. The issue had a solid base of support before it became the central message of the Trump Presidential campaign. Support for a wall is now dropping, though, even among Republicans.
The wall is now inextricably linked with Donald Trump. He may be able to win the Republican nomination on the issue, but his challenge in the general election looks even greater than it was.