By ANDREW TAYLOR and EMILY SWANSON
WASHINGTON (AP) — Most Americans oppose paying for President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a poll released Thursday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The president gets higher marks for efforts to boost defense spending and beef up the border patrol.
Even many of Trump’s supporters reject his proposed budget cuts to scientific and medical research, the poll found.
The poll results come at a crucial time. Congressional Republicans and Democrats are wrestling over whether to include a down payment for the wall — financed by U.S. taxpayers instead of Mexico, despite Trump’s repeated promises — in the spending bill to keep the government open at the end of the month.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump disparaged his predecessor’s economic stimulus spending this week as a windfall for social programs and said he’s unaware of anything built from the money steered to infrastructure. That’s a mischaracterization of former President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, which had tax cuts as its largest component and plowed more than $100 billion into highway, transit and other “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, to use the buzz phrase of that time.
Trump needn’t have ventured far from Trump Tower to see stimulus money at work. The Brooklyn Bridge and a new landmark Manhattan train station were among New York City’s recipients of millions of stimulus dollars for construction and repairs. And Trump liked the package at the time. When it passed in the depths of the severe recession, he praised Obama as a “strong guy” who did a “terrific job,” adding, “this is what we need.”
That appraisal has changed as Trump prepares to pitch Congress on his own infrastructure initiative.
TRUMP, in remarks to CEOs Tuesday: “There was a very large infrastructure bill that was approved during the Obama administration, a trillion dollars. Nobody ever saw anything being built. I mean, to this day, I haven’t heard of anything that’s been built. They used most of that money — it went and they used it on social programs and we want this to be on infrastructure.”
THE FACTS: The $787 billion package was not an infrastructure bill, but a catch-all response to the recession with infrastructure as a major part. More than a third of it went to tax cuts. Medicaid spending and other help for health care made up the next largest component. Then came infrastructure, followed closely by education. The package mixed economic and social spending, helping states train displaced workers, for example, extending jobless benefits and assisting with low-income housing.
In New York City alone, $30 million went toward repairs and repainting of the Brooklyn Bridge; the Staten Island ferry also got a boost. More than $80 million was earmarked for Moynihan Station, an annex to Penn Station that is meant to return the rail hub to the grandeur of the original Penn Station. Road, bridge and transit projects across the country got a lift. The economy is far stronger than it was at the time.
How much the stimulus package contributed to the recovery remains a matter of debate. But it was far more than a social-spending spree, as Trump recognized when it passed.
As BuzzFeed noted in 2015, Trump had high praise for the president and the package when it passed in February 2009, telling Fox News it was a good mix of tax cuts and spending projects. “I thought he did a terrific job,” Trump said then. “This is a strong guy (who) knows what he wants, and this is what we need.” —– Associated Press writers Calvin Woodward and Jim Drinkard
The poll offers a mixed view of Trump’s budget plan, which drew criticism from Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Americans supported cuts to foreign aid, but opposed Trump’s planned cuts to spending on environmental programs and fighting climate change. People were more likely to oppose than favor cutting federal help for public broadcasting and the arts and, by huge margins, supported additional money for veterans’ programs.
“The military is depleted, and the veterans have been hurting,” said Margaret Hall, 77, a Trump supporter from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.
Trump’s spending plans are facing their first test on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers debate his request for $30 billion for an immediate cash infusion for the military and $3 billion for additional border security, including a $1 billion down payment for new fencing and other barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The public opposes new spending for the wall, 58 percent to 28 percent. Nearly half say they strongly oppose funding for the project.
“I honestly think the wall is going to be a fiasco. If they want to get into the country, they’re going to get into the country, regardless of what you put up there,” said Wes Drought, 61, a firefighter and paramedic from Winnebago, Ill., who strongly disapproves of Trump. “If you’re going to do something, do it with the border patrol. If you want to create jobs, there’s a job.”
Democrats have come out strongly against the wall construction, and some Republicans are signaling they’re not interested in a confrontation.
“I don’t like the concept — I don’t think it’s needed — of a 2,000-mile wall as some envision,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., whose state is home to some of the most rugged terrain along the border. “It’s just not needed. In some areas you just don’t need it. In some areas you need wall, in some areas you need fences. In some areas you need surveillance.”
Testifying on Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the wall won’t be from “sea to shining sea,” but in places where border agents say it would be most effective. He said the wall could extend beyond a physical barrier and include a mix of technology including drones.
Eighty-six percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents oppose new spending for a border wall with Mexico. Republicans break about 2-1 in favor of the wall, but that’s more narrow support than on other priorities.
The most popular proposal by far in the Trump budget is increasing spending on Veterans Affairs, which is supported by 74 percent of Americans and opposed by just 8 percent.
Americans are also more likely to favor than oppose increased spending on border patrol (50 percent to 32 percent) and decreased spending on foreign aid (50 percent to 30 percent). By a 47 percent to 34 percent margin, more also favor than oppose increasing spending on defense and the military.
But other pieces of the proposed Trump budget draw negative reviews. By a 64 percent to 19 percent margin, most oppose decreasing spending on scientific and medical research. That’s a complaint echoed by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, including the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who holds significant sway as Congress uses the president’s proposal as a blueprint but writes the budget.
Most Americans also oppose cuts to spending on the environment and on climate change, by a 52 percent to 28 percent margin. Finally, Americans are more likely to oppose than favor cutting spending for public television, radio and the arts, 44 percent to 32 percent.
Large majorities across party lines favor increasing Veterans Affairs spending, although Republicans are particularly supportive. And decreasing spending for scientific and medical research is largely opposed across party lines, by 78 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independents and 51 percent of Republicans.
But there are large political divides on several other pieces of the budget proposal. Seventy-five percent of Republicans but just 40 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats favor increased military spending.
Eighty percent of Republicans and 49 percent of independents, but just 26 percent of Democrats, favor increased border patrol spending. And 72 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of independents, but just 30 percent of Democrats, favor decreased foreign aid spending.
A note about the poll:
The AP-NORC poll of 1,110 adults was conducted March 23-27 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 4.0 percentage points.
Interviews were conducted online and using landlines and cellphones.