By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Wednesday marked the 33rd day of the US government shutdown. And while polls have consistently shown the public holding President Trump and the GOP more responsible for it than the Democrats by a wide margin, a new CBS News poll has numbers that neither the president nor his party can ignore.

In the 2016 election, it was independent voters who tipped the balance, breaking for Trump over Hillary Clinton by four percentage points. They responded well to promises of the sort the president repeated in his inaugural address: “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”

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2016 exit polls showed Trump’s promises to create jobs and better wages while fixing a broken immigration system were keys to his appeal to non-partisan voters. But the new CBS poll shows the government shutdown is damaging the president’s standing among those crucial swing voters on those same core issues.

As the shutdown begins to take a measurable toll, a majority of independents now say they disapprove of the president’s economic management, an erosion in what was once his strongest performance area.

And while independents have long been skeptical of some Trump-era immigration policies such as the border wall, doubt has evolved into dismay, with a whopping 62% now saying they disapprove of his handling of the issue.

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“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families,” President Trump said in that inaugural address. But his decision to shut down a significant swath of the government in order to force funding for his border wall is hurting workers and their families instead.

And as the fallout mounts, perhaps the most troubling poll finding for the White House comes in response to the question: “How much do you think Donald Trump cares about the needs and problems of people like yourself?”

Among independents, 25% answered “not at all,” 26% said “not much,” 36% said “some,” and just 11% answered “a lot.”


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As the Senate prepares to take votes on ending the shutdown Thursday, Republicans up for re-election next year face a tough choice: anger the Trump base by putting the wall on hold, or appease them by holding firm, thus enhancing the likelihood of continuing to alienate those all important independents, among others.

Jon Keller