Now that Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation has officially concluded, a critical question is how Americans will react to what, if any, findings become public. National polls conducted by The Washington Post with partners have tracked approval of Mueller's handling of the probe over the past 16 months.

The Justice Department appointed Mueller to serve as special counsel on May 17, 2017. Shortly after the investigation handed out its first indictments, a November Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 58 percent of Americans approved of Mueller’s handling of the investigation into possible ties between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, while 28 percent disapproved.

Overall rating of Mueller’s job performance

Nov. 1, 2017

Five and a half months after

Mueller’s appointment

Net

DISAPPROVE

APPROVE

+30

28%

14%

58%

NO OPINION

Jan. 18, 2018

Eight months in

+19

31%

19%

50%

Feb. 10, 2019

One year and eight months in

+17

34%

15%

51%

No opinion

Net

Approval

Disapprove

Approve

Nov. 1, 2017

+30

14%

58%

28%

Almost six months from

Mueller’s appointment

Jan. 18, 2018

+19

19%

50%

31%

Eight months in

Feb. 10, 2019

+17

15%

51%

34%

Almost two years in

Net

Approval

Disapprove

No opinion

Approve

Nov. 1, 2017

+30

28%

14%

58%

Almost six months from

Mueller’s appointment

Jan. 18, 2018

+19

31%

19%

50%

Eight months in

Feb. 10, 2019

+17

34%

15%

51%

Almost two years in

Net

Approval

Disapprove

No opinion

Approve

Nov. 1, 2017

+30

28%

14%

58%

Almost six months from

Mueller’s appointment

Jan. 18, 2018

31%

19%

50%

+19

Eight months in

Feb. 10, 2019

+17

34%

15%

51%

Almost two years in

Approval dropped to 50 percent a few months later in a January 2018 Post-ABC News poll, but that still outweighed the 31 percent who disapproved. Earlier this month, a Washington Post-Schar School poll found Mueller’s investigation maintained a net positive image with 51 percent approving and 34 percent disapproving of the way he has handled the investigation.

Mueller's reputation varied dramatically by party, a strong indication that Democrats, Republicans and independents will react to his investigation's findings in different ways.

Share approving of Mueller’s job performance, by party

Nov. 1, 2017

Five months after Mueller’s appointment

0%

38%

56%

78%

GOP

IND

DEM

Jan. 18, 2018

Eight months in

71%

28%

50%

Feb. 10, 2019

Over a year and a half in

21%

52%

77%

0%

38%

Nov. 1, 2017

56%

78%

Five months after

Mueller’s appointment

GOP

Ind.

Dem.

71%

28%

50%

Jan. 18, 2018

Eight months in

21%

52%

77%

Feb. 10, 2019

A year and a half in

0%

38%

56%

78%

Nov. 1, 2017

Five months after

Mueller’s appointment

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

71%

28%

50%

Jan. 18, 2018

Eight months in

21%

52%

77%

Feb. 10, 2019

A year and a half in

0%

38%

56%

78%

Nov. 1, 2017

Five months after

Mueller’s appointment

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

71%

28%

50%

Jan. 18, 2018

Eight months in

21%

52%

77%

Feb. 10, 2019

A year and a half in

At least 7 in 10 Democrats and about half of independents have approved of Mueller’s handling of the investigation in each Post poll since 2017. Trump has actively raged against the investigation, calling it a “witch hunt” over 100 times, and Republicans seem to have fallen in line. The share of Republicans disapproving of Mueller’s handling grew from 44 percent in November 2017 to 49 percent in January 2018 and 69 percent this February.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.

About this story

The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone October 29-November 1, 2017, among a random national sample of 1,005 adults, including landline and cell phone respondents. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Cambridge, Mass.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone January 15-18, 2018, among a random national sample of 1,005 adults, including landline and cell phone respondents. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage point. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Cambridge, Mass.

The Washington Post-Schar School poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 6-10, 2019 among a random national sample of 841 adults, including landline and cell phone respondents. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points, including design effects due to weighting. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Glen Mills, Pa.

Promo photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.

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