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Yahoo News/YouGov poll: Bipartisan border security bill very popular with Republicans — until they're told Trump opposes it

“This Bill is a great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party,” Trump said on his Truth Social network.

Donald Trump stands next to a few people by a barbwire fence near a riverbank.
Former President Donald Trump at the bank of the Rio Grande River during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, Feb. 29, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Eric Gay/AP)

Nearly two-thirds of Republicans (64%) favor the recent bipartisan border-security deal struck by Senate negotiators, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — unless they’re told that former President Donald Trump opposes it, in which case GOP support plummets to 34%.

The survey of 1,482 U.S. adults that was conducted from March 8 to 11 shows how quickly powerful politicians — particularly Trump — can sway the public when they take sides on a hot-button issue.

Revealing the ‘Trump effect’

To test the “Trump effect” on border politics, Yahoo News and YouGov split respondents into two groups. The first group read a description of the border deal that didn’t mention Trump. The second group read the same description followed by the phrase “but Donald Trump opposed the deal and it died in the Senate.”

Among the first group of Americans — the ones who weren’t told about Trump’s opposition — 58% favored a “$20 billion bipartisan border deal” struck by “a group of Republican and Democratic senators” that would “raise the bar for asylum, hire more asylum officers and border security agents, make it easier to expel migrants and automatically close the border if illegal crossings reach a certain average daily threshold.” While 18% of the respondents in that group opposed the deal.

And among Republicans in the first group, 64% favored the deal while 19% did not.

But those numbers were wildly different in the group that was told of Trump’s opposition. There, only 34% favored it — a decline of 30 percentage points — while 36% of those Republicans did not.

The difference among 2020 Trump voters was even more drastic. In the first group, Trump voters backed the border deal by a more than two-to-one margin (57% for it compared to 27% against); in the second group, a mere 26% of Trump voters favored the deal while 44% opposed it.

To be fair, Democrats in the two groups also had differing views on the deal; when told of Trump’s opposition, support went up by 7 points among Democrats (to 70%) and by 8 points among 2020 Biden voters (to 72%). But the effect was much smaller.

Overall, the border deal went from being favored by a majority of Americans in the first group (58%) to less than half of Americans in the second group (48%) — simply because of Trump’s opposition.

Republicans trust Trump on immigration

That shift explains, in part, why Senate negotiators abandoned the deal after the 2024 Republican presidential nominee came out against it.

More than anything else, Trump built his political following on a hardline approach to immigration. If the bill wasn’t good enough for Trump, his supporters likely concluded, then it wasn’t good enough for them.

But Biden had a different explanation. “All indications are this bill won’t even move forward to the Senate floor. Why? ... Because Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically,” the president said last month. "He’d rather weaponize this issue than actually solve it.”

How we got here

Since Biden took office in 2021 and reversed some of Trump’s restrictions, illegal crossings at the border have surged to a record high of more than 2 million per year, on average.

Most Democrats spent 2023 avoiding border politics while privately fretting about how the issue might affect the 2024 election. But the president finally bowed to GOP pressure last fall, agreeing to bipartisan border talks; the hope was that “a deal might take the issue off the table for his re-election campaign,” according to the New York Times.

In January, Senate negotiators actually struck a $20 billion bipartisan deal — a deal that gave the GOP much of what it had asked for, including provisions that would restrict claims for parole, raise the bar for asylum, ease the expulsion of migrants and automatically shutter the border if attempted illegal crossings reach a certain average daily threshold.

But Trump balked — and following his lead, Republicans on Capitol Hill effectively doomed the legislation.

“This Bill is a great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party,” Trump said on his Truth Social network. “It takes the HORRIBLE JOB the Democrats have done on Immigration and the Border, absolves them, and puts it all squarely on the shoulders of Republicans. Don’t be STUPID!!!”

A favorite talking point among Republicans is that deal’s threshold for shuttering the border — a one-week average of 5,000 illegal daily crossing attempts — effectively allows 5,000 people to enter the country illegally every day.

Yet independent fact-checkers have debunked that claim, noting that 5,000 is just the average number of daily border “encounters” — not successful crossings — required to close the border, and that “no migrants trying to enter the U.S. illegally would be allowed into the country unless they passed asylum interviews or were being held under government supervision.”

In December, the Border Patrol reported more than 250,000 encounters — or a daily average of about 8,000 — according to Customs and Border Protection data.

“We can fight about the border — or we can fix it,” Biden said last week during his State of the Union address. “I'm ready to fix it. Send me the border bill now.”

Most Americans see the border as a ‘major problem’

Taken individually, the key components of the border deal are very popular, with majority support ranging from 55% for “raising the requirements for immigrants to receive political asylum” to 68% for “hiring more asylum officers and border security agents.” (The rest are somewhere in between.) And that range of support is even higher — from 75% to 84% — among Republicans.

So it’s no surprise Biden is continuing to push for compromise legislation. A full 76% of Americans see “the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border” as at least a “major problem,” according to the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, with nearly half (46%) describing it as a “state of crisis.”

Since January 2023, both of those numbers have ticked up by 5 percentage points — largely because of a 10-point increase in the share of Republicans (77%) who view the situation as a crisis. But most Democrats (68%) now consider the border either a major problem (46%) or a crisis (23%) as well.

This is a political challenge for the president. Far more Americans say the situation at the border has gotten worse (53%) over the past year than say it has gotten better (9%). And an even larger share (62%) say Biden bears either most (40%) or some (22%) of the blame for the situation there.

Despite his efforts to broker a bipartisan deal, Biden’s “most of the blame” number (40%) is larger than the corresponding figures for Congress (28%), migrants (29%), the leaders of countries migrants are leaving (37%) and Trump (20%) — and it has risen by 7 points since January 2023.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,482 U.S. adults interviewed online from March 8 to 11, 2024. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to Nov. 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.8%.