Protesters rally against President Trump's immigration policies in Los Angeles in July 2018.

Protesters rally against President Trump's immigration policies in Los Angeles in July 2018. Richard Vogel / AP

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement Is the Federal Government's Least Popular Agency

Survey also finds a slightly higher percentage of Americans prefer a smaller government with fewer services than a big government.

Amid a firestorm of controversy and widespread calls for its elimination, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the least popular agency in the federal government. 

ICE was the lone agency to see net negative ratings in a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, though Americans are evenly split on the Education Department. ICE also saw the most variance by political affiliation of any agency surveyed. Just 19% of Democrats view the Homeland Security component favorably, compared to 70% of Republicans. 

The U.S. Postal Service remained the most popular federal agency, with 90% of Americans viewing USPS favorably. Two consecutive surveys in 2014 and 2017 conducted by Gallup also found the mailing agency was the most popular in the federal government. The National Park Service, NASA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all enjoyed favorable scores of at least 80% of respondents in the Pew poll. 

Public opinion varies across federal agencies; views of ICE still mixed

Other agencies with sizable differences in partisan approval ratings included the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department. Nearly six-in-10 Democrats approve of the IRS compared to just half of Republicans; the inverse is true for Justice.

The disparity in ratings by party has narrowed at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has gone from a 20 percentage point gap in 2010—when 69% of Democrats and just 49% of Republicans approved of EPA—to just a five point gap now. 

Overall, 48% of Americans would like to see a smaller government that offers fewer services, compared to 46% who prefer a bigger government offering more services. 

ICE’s unpopularity comes as the agency has fought to shed negative attention as the Trump administration has cracked down on undocumented immigrants. Progressive groups and politicians have used “abolish ICE” as a rallying cry, a movement Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have repeatedly derided. ICE supervisors recently penned a public letter asking Americans not to blame career employees for carrying out federal laws and said the negative attention has placed its agents at risk.  

Pew conducted the survey from Sept. 5-16, contacting a random sample of 2,004 adults. It has a margin of error of 2.6%.