SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The longest federal government shutdown in this nation’s history continues into its 22nd day. President Trump and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives remain deadlocked over his demand for border wall funding in order to reopen the government. A new NPR/Ipsos poll shows that Americans are mostly fed up with the stalemate and pessimistic about the direction of their country. NPR’s Debbie Elliott reports.
DEBBIE ELLIOT, BYLINE: Federal workers rallied at the Capitol this week to send a message to Congress and the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting) Open the government.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Today.
ELLIOT: An estimated 800,000 federal workers are affected by the partial government shutdown, including LeRoy McCray who works, currently without pay, at Reagan National Airport.
LEROY MCCRAY: I’m showing up to work every day. I’m doing my job. I’m doing a service for this country, and I’m not getting paid. To me, that is un-American.
ELLIOT: He says the standoff is changing his outlook on the direction of the country.
MCCRAY: It’s becoming harder and harder to remain optimistic.
ELLIOT: The NPR/Ipsos poll shows a majority of Americans are similarly frustrated with the shutdown and the state of politics in general.
LISA WEST: I think it’s very embarrassing.
ELLIOT: Survey respondent Lisa West is a 58-year-old independent from San Luis Obispo, Calif.
WEST: I think it makes us look stupid. And I think it makes us look like we’re children and unable to behave like adults and make compromises.
ELLIOT: West’s views are in line with three-quarters of Americans according to the NPR/Ipsos poll. The online survey of about 1,000 people was conducted January 9 and 10.
Research director Mallory Newall of the Ipsos polling company says the sentiment was clear.
MALLORY NEWALL: No one in Washington really is coming out of this with a stronger standing among the American public.
ELLIOT: Newall says two-thirds of those surveyed said they were not personally affected by the shutdown. Nonetheless…
NEWALL: They see it as a black mark on the country. It’s embarrassing. And that sentiment of embarrassment and frustration works across party lines. So you have even over half of Republicans, for example, saying that the shutdown is embarrassing for the country and that it’s going to hurt our country.
KAREN MURPHY: My name is Karen Murphy, and I live and work in Huntsville, Ala.
ELLIOT: Murphy is a NASA contractor, and the work she’s doing is funded into February, but she’s not been able to talk to government employees who’ve been furloughed in the shutdown.
MURPHY: It’s holding people hostage who just want to do their jobs.
ELLIOT: Murphy, who identifies as a political independent, puts the blame on both Congress and the president.
MURPHY: Neither side comes out of this blameless.
ELLIOT: The poll found that a majority of Americans are optimistic about their personal finances but more pessimistic about the direction of the country, although those results were split along party lines. Republicans are more optimistic, with Democrats and independents, like Karen Murphy, more pessimistic.
MURPHY: I think right now the country doesn’t have much of a direction. I have never seen this much confusion. You know, that’s – it’s kind of scary because I keep looking at this, and I don’t necessarily see a good way out.
ELLIOT: But a third of Americans do see a way out – funding a border wall.
JAMES NICHOLS: I think it’s a good idea.
ELLIOT: James Nichols ducks between buildings to escape the bitter cold in Lincoln, N.H. He works for a company that manufactures aluminum parts and is concerned about people coming into the country illegally.
NICHOLS: A lot of the immigrants that are coming over here that don’t have the card, the legal documents to be in the United States.
ELLIOT: Nichols says he thinks it’s worth shutting down the government until the border is secure. That’s a sentiment according to the NPR/Ipsos poll shared by nearly 1 in 3 Americans.
Debbie Elliott, NPR News.
SIMON: And, of course, that’s the sentiment of President Trump, who has ramped up efforts to try to secure funding for a border wall.
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