By Jon Reid
February 1, 2017 at 6:00 am ET
A plurality of voters say President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans should make tax reform their top priority, not repealing Obamacare or building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
In a new Morning Consult/POLITICO online survey, registered voters were asked which of the three big-ticket items the party should make prioritize early on in Trump’s administration.
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Almost four out of 10 voters (39 percent) said the most urgent task for GOP lawmakers and the new administration should be passing comprehensive tax reform, followed by 28 percent who favored a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and 11 percent who said the focus should be on constructing a border wall.
Congressional Republicans, who have campaigned on repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama’s signature health law since its inception, aim to make good on that promise this spring, before they take up tax-overhaul legislation and a spending bill for the border wall.
GOP lawmakers have reason to make Obamacare their first priority: It’s the most popular item with their base. Forty-six percent of Republican voters see it as their party’s No. 1 priority. By contrast, 23 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats said it should be Republicans’ top priority.
While tax reform is the second big legislative item on the GOP’s agenda for 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to discuss timing for the legislation in a recent interview with Morning Consult.
“If we can do all of these things this year, that will be very significant,” the Kentucky Republican said on Jan. 27. “I don’t want to put a timeline on when we finish tax reform.”
Rewriting the U.S. tax code is most popular with Democratic voters: 47 percent of Democrats said it should be the top priority, compared with 43 percent of independents and 30 percent of Republicans.
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In terms of more general priorities, voters most want the unified Republican government to focus on jobs.
A plurality of voters (28 percent) said improving job creation should be Republicans’ No. 1 goal. That was followed by repealing Obamacare (18 percent), passing tax reform legislation (11 percent), passing an infrastructure bill (10 percent), renegotiating trade deals (8 percent), building the border wall (6 percent) and removing environmental regulations (4 percent).
There is scant support across party lines for prioritizing the border wall — 15 percent of Republicans, 10 percent of independents and 8 percent of Democrats said the wall should be Republicans’ top priority, and 42 percent of voters said the wall shouldn’t be built at all.
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One reason for the lack of support could be that 58 percent of voters say the wall would increase the national debt. Thirty-six percent of those respondents said the wall — which McConnell said could cost as much as $15 billion — would greatly increase the debt.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump could fulfill his campaign promise to have Mexico pay for the wall by imposing a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports. While such a tax would likely lead to higher costs for American businesses and, ultimately, consumers, 48 percent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat support the idea, including 75 percent of Republicans. Four out of 10 respondents said they oppose the proposal.
The national survey was conducted Jan. 26 through Jan. 28. The poll consists of 1,991 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.