By Amie Parnes - 03/15/13 06:55 PM EDT
A majority of voters believe the White House should resume tours of the White House, according to a new poll conducted for The Hill.
Fifty-four percent of those surveyed in the poll said that the White House should continue the tours of the mansion, while 28 percent said they should not be resumed. The poll found that 18 percent were unsure of whether the tours should be brought back.
The national survey of 1000 likely voters was conducted on March 14. It has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.
It’s the most high-profile stumble by the White House in the messaging war over the sequester, as congressional Republicans have repeatedly criticized the decision as a stunt to hurt Congress, where lawmakers have long arranged White House tours for their constituents. One Republican raised the issue during President Obama’s meeting with the conference this week, provoking the only tense moment of an otherwise polite back and forth.
The White House has taken responsibility for the decision but has suggested it was ultimately made by the Secret Service, which spends about $74,000 a week for the tours. White House officials have said that the Secret Service made the decision in order to maintain its core mission and to avoid furloughs and other cutbacks stemming from the cuts.
“We had to cancel the tours. It's our job to cancel the tours,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said at a briefing with reporters on Wednesday. "[The Secret Service] cannot cancel them ... this is not a tour of the Secret Service building. It's a tour of the White House and the grounds, and we run the tours and the invitations and that process.”
But Carney went on to blame Republicans for triggering the sequester.
"Let’s go back to the fact that none of this was necessary,” he said. “These choices are all bad. ... I think we’re now seeing that there are unhappy results of sequester. It may be a home run in some folks’ eyes, a victory for the Tea Party for some. But it’s bad for America."
Even before he heard from lawmakers, Obama, sensing the public outcry over the move, said in an interview with ABC News this week that the White House is looking into ways of continuing with some tours for students.
“What I’m asking ... is, are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups who may have traveled here with some bake sales,” Obama said. “Can we make sure that kids, potentially, can still come to tour?”
So far, it's unclear when the tours will resume.
This report was updated at 5:42 p.m.