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Trump Voters In Upstate New York React To End Of Government Shutdown

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Some in conservative media have berated President Trump for ending the government shutdown without any guarantee of funding for a border wall. They've called him wimpy.

Now, though, let's hear from rank-and-file Trump supporters - people who voted for him 2016 and have stuck by him ever since. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports from rural upstate New York.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Temperatures are in the single digits when I find Ivan Green warming up and having breakfast at a shop in the farm and mill town of Brushton. He just got off the night shift at a factory nearby. He's a big Donald Trump fan.

IVAN GREEN: I like the fact that he wants the wall up, and I support him 100 percent on that. I like - I pretty much like everything about what he's done.

MANN: Polls show President Trump's support faded during the government shutdown, but this rural district in northern New York backed Trump in 2016 and voted Republican again in last November's midterms. Interviews here found many of his core supporters, like Green, haven't budged.

GREEN: I'm behind him. I know some people live off the government; they're not happy about it.

MANN: Green says those 800,000 federal workers who went without paychecks - that's a small sacrifice if it forces Congress to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

GREEN: I'd hate for somebody to come over here and rape my daughter, murder her, murder my mom and then go back over there and not get caught. So yeah, I think the wall's a great idea.

MANN: In fact, there's strong evidence that immigrants and undocumented workers are less likely to commit violent crimes than U.S. citizens. These communities are about as far from the Mexican border as you can get in the continental U.S. The Canadian border is just up the road, so people here don't have much actual experience with undocumented migrants.

The Trump voters I talked to accept his claim that people coming from Central and South America pose a serious danger.

MAURICE BERTRAND: I've got grandchildren and great-grandchildren now. And I fear for what's coming down the road.

MANN: Maurice Bertrand is a farmer in Canton, N.Y. He's furious at Democrats for blocking Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for the wall. Here's how Bertrand describes Trump's opponents in Congress.

BERTRAND: These smart-asses with their college degrees.

MANN: If the president feels like he needs to shut the government down again to twist their arms, are you for it, or do you think that's a bad idea?

BERTRAND: Absolutely. You know, it's like a kid that doesn't listen. He's got to hurt before he understands. So if the country's got to hurt a little bit, and it's a small price to pay, yup.

MANN: Voters like these are in the minority in the U.S. as a whole. Surveys show most Americans hated the partial government shutdown, and a majority blamed President Trump. And even some Trump supporters say they're not sure he played this fight the right way.

AMY WHITE: The border wall - I mean, yeah, I want to be protected, you know, just like everybody else.

MANN: Amy White lives in the tiny town of Russell, N.Y. She says the government shutdown felt, to her, like bad strategy - a standoff in Washington that hurt regular people way out here in rural America.

WHITE: It just seems like there's other ways of doing it than, you know, putting people out of work and, you know, losing their income. And it just seems like there's got to be a better way, but I don't know what that way would be.

MANN: White says she, too, still backs the president and still wants his wall built. Polls show the overwhelming majority of conservative voters still trust his leadership. But her doubts about the wisdom of the shutdown are reflected in polls that show Trump losing ground in recent weeks nationwide, even with some of his core supporters - white men without college degrees, evangelicals and registered Republicans.

Brian Mann, NPR News, Canton, N.Y. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.