A large majority of Minnesotans support President Donald Trump’s decision to order missile strikes against Syria but oppose other top priorities he has on national security, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll shows.
The April 6 bombing that Trump ordered on a Syrian air field won broad support across the Twin Cities metro area and the state in the poll, with 70 percent saying they approve and just 21 percent disapproving. Support also cut across all age groups and income levels. Even a slight majority of Minnesotans who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential race said they approved of the strike.
But the poll found much more mixed feelings toward other Trump positions on foreign policy, immigration and homeland security.
For example, 65 percent of those polled said they opposed Trump’s ongoing vow to build a wall along the United States’ 1,954-mile border with Mexico if the U.S. government has to pay for it. And on the temporary ban the Trump administration has been trying to implement against travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, as well as all refugees, only 33 percent of those polled said it’s making the country safer.
The poll of 800 registered voters in the state was conducted April 24-26. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.
No issue had more support in the poll than Trump’s action in Syria.
“Something had to be done,” said Linda Anderson, a 68-year-old retired teacher from Blaine who participated in the poll. “Of what he’s done, it’s the only thing I can somewhat agree with.”
Anderson, who did not vote for Trump, said the situation in Syria required a response from the international community as well. “I wish other countries would get on board with that,” she said.
Peter Skaalen, a 68-year-old from Eden Prairie who took part in the poll, voted against Trump and has almost nothing positive to say about his presidency so far — but he, too, found the Syria bombing justifiable.
“I think that the use of chemical weapons to kill so many children was something that an honorable country like ours should take action on,” Skaalen said.
The strongest disapproval for the military action by Trump came from Democrats and Clinton voters. But even 51 percent of self-identified Clinton voters and 47 percent of Democrats expressed support. Men who participated in the poll backed the Syria strike by 81 percent, while 60 percent of women supported it.
Trump’s call to erect a Mexico border wall became perhaps the chief rallying cry of his presidential campaign. He vowed repeatedly that Mexico would pay for it. But just 29 percent of Minnesotans polled support building it using U.S. funds, which congressional leaders have said would have to be the case.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s steadfast refusal to foot the bill led Trump to soften his own position on its funding, and he recently asked Congress to fund construction of the border wall. He explained in an April 23 tweet that Mexico would reimburse the U.S. “at a later date.” In the tweet, Trump said “Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall.”
Alice Thissen, a 71-year-old retired teacher’s aide from Clara City, Minn., was among a strong majority of Trump voters in the poll who said they still want the border wall built even if the U.S. has to pay for it.
“I think we need a wall,” Thissen said. “We need more protection.”
Democrats in the poll almost universally opposed the wall at 95 percent, while 54 percent of Republicans want to see it built. Among independents who were polled, the wall registered 30 percent support.
The poll found a narrower divide among voters on the Trump administration’s approach to illegal immigration. Arrests of people in the country illegally have risen sharply in the first few months of the year compared with last year, new federal immigration data shows. Slightly more than half of Minnesotans in the poll opposed accelerated deportations of individuals in the country illegally, including those who have not committed a serious crime.
Statewide, the strongest support for accelerating deportations was in northern Minnesota, where 52 percent of those polled said they support tougher immigration policies. In southern Minnesota, a region whose agricultural and poultry processing industries rely on a large immigrant workforce, 48 percent of those polled support deporting more immigrants.
Republicans and Trump voters voice the strongest support for increased deportations, the poll showed.
Skaalen, the poll respondent from Eden Prairie, was highly critical of Trump. A Republican turned Democrat, Skaalen said Trump and his administration lack credibility and “I no longer feel I can believe anything that he says.”
On immigration, however, Skaalen sided with the stepped-up enforcement of immigration laws. “We should not be allowing people who are coming in illegally,” he said. “If we can find them, I think we should deport them.”
Illegal immigration, he said, “hasn’t been taken seriously.”
One of Trump’s most high-profile national security initiatives has been his bid to temporarily ban travelers from a handful of Muslim-majority countries, as well as refugees. The order has been in legal limbo since late March after a federal judge in Hawaii blocked its implementation. The Trump administration is appealing the ruling.
One-third of Minnesotans say the revised executive order made the country safer, but nearly 40 percent said the changes to the original order made no difference in national security.
“I feel as if we have a right to decide who we let in and who we don’t want to let in,” Skaalen said.
Ricardo Lopez • 651-925-5044