More Border Wall Numbers

Border states/districts are not as pro-wall as presidential rhetoric might make you think.

The Upshot (As Trump Sticks With His Wall, His Ratings Stay Stuck in Place) has the following graphic in regards to the midterms and support for a border wall:

 What strikes me about the graphic are the border states. First, if there really was a massive crisis on the border, one would expect the border states to be somewhat in sync over this issue. However, those states run the gamut.  Second, it is blatantly obvious that partisanship is the real driving variable.  CA is heavily Democratic, AZ is becoming purple, and Texas is mostly red, but had a serious blue challenge in 2018 (and we see opposition, a 50-50 split, and support with significant opposition across those three states).

Also in regards to the crisis thesis, if we look at the 2018 mid-terms and border districts, most of them voted Democratic (source: CNN):

Indeed, only Texas 23 went Republican, and then by less than a percentage point (not to mention the district is geographically huge with much of it being hours by car from the border). Again:  if a wall was truly the sine qua non of border security, surely these districts would have voted for the pro-wall party.

The piece notes:

The wall has consistently been unpopular, with voters opposed by around a 20-point margin over months of national surveys. That makes it even less popular than the president himself.

Support for the wall is closely tied to support for the president, though. Over all, polls show it consistently tracks just a few points beneath the president’s approval rating, and support for the wall is almost exclusively confined to voters who already support the president.


The relationship between support for the president and the wall is so tight that it’s hard not to wonder whether, at least for now, support for the wall is simply a function of support for the president. In other words, attitudes about President Trump might drive attitudes about the wall, rather than the other way around. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise, given how strongly voters feel about the president and the extent that he’s emphasized the issue.

Indeed, while it is possible that causality runs from wall support to Trump support, I am guessing that, on balance, wall support is a proxy for Trump support.  Hence, when we see some polls showing an increase in support for the wall in the last year, I think that is more about Trump supporters doubling down on their Trump support more than it is about the wall in and of itself.  In other words, I think when people hear the question “Do you support a border wall” they hear “Do you support President Trump” and answer accordingly.  This has to be especially true in the context of the shutdown.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Also in regards to the crisis thesis, if we look at the 2018 mid-terms and border districts, most of them voted Democratic

    Yeah but those are heavily Hispanic American districts, not Real American ™ districts.

    In other words, I think when people hear the question “Do you support a border wall” they hear “Do you support President Trump” and answer accordingly.

    Yep. A wall on the border affects Miserians not one whit, but you can be sure the trumpinistas want that wall yesterday! because that would MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!!!


  2. reid says:

    Related to all of this, I find it disappointing that there are so few factual discussions about the current state of border security. I don’t expect the Republicans, and Trump in particular, to be honest about it, of course, but the Democrats and press don’t often explain it very well. Trump conflates The Wall with border security, and many people accept it. The reality at the border is just an abstract thing to them (which helps explain why The Wall is so popular in red states away from the border). I wish Democrats would point out there there already is a lot of wall in place where it makes sense, that we have excellent border security right now, and that building a complete wall is expensive and foolish.

  3. @reid: I have seen a good deal of this, to be honest–especially as it pertains to drugs and terrorism. I have also seen discussions of existing barriers.

  4. reid says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yes, I don’t mean information about border security is non-existent. But I don’t see enough of it, and I don’t see enough coming from the Democrats to refute Trump. I’m sure there are many people who think there is no wall on the border at all and that people can stream over as they please.

    (Maybe I’m just not tuned in enough.)

  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    Indeed, only Texas 23 went Republican

    It should be noted that TX-23’s representative is Will Hurd, one of the Republicans in the House who already broke with the President and voted to reopen the government.

  6. @reid: I am sure more is needed.

    @Stormy Dragon: Good point.