When The Washington Post and our polling partners at ABC News asked Americans this month whether they thought the June 2016 meeting between relatives of Donald Trump and his campaign chairman and a Kremlin-linked Russian attorney was appropriate, most — 63 percent — said that it wasn’t.
When SurveyMonkey asked a slightly different question — how concerned people were about the meeting coordinated by Donald Trump Jr. — the responses were also different. More than half of respondents said that they had only some or very little concern about the meeting, while a bit under half said that they had “quite a bit” or a lot of concern.
Predictably, those responses aligned with people’s party identifications. Republicans were more likely to be unconcerned; Democrats, to be concerned. Independents were about split.
What makes the SurveyMonkey poll so interesting, though, is that respondents were also asked why they felt the way they did. The Post’s polling team read all 1,042 of the answers and sorted them into categories.
Among those who weren’t very concerned about the meeting, the most common responses were that the media were exaggerating the incident, that it was a normal meeting that Trump Jr. had every right to participate in and that it’s standard operating procedure for those involved in political campaigns.
Those with only some concern (vs. very little) were more likely to say that there simply wasn’t enough known about the meeting for them to be more worried.
Some quotes from respondents who said that they weren’t very concerned. (We’ve cleaned up spelling and punctuation.)
- “It was a nothing meeting, all email were released and it has no bearing on the election.”
- “Typical of normal campaign activities. Nothing illegal.”
- “What could they have talked about, trying to take over the world? Come on, Pinky.” (This is a reference to “Pinky and the Brain.”)
- “It is another media hype, and the media, in my view, has completely overstepped. They should be ashamed of what they are doing. What ever happened to reporting good news?”
- “Let’s start with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder and the rest of that Administration that let the country go downhill for the past eight years. And you are worried about a meeting with a Russian woman lawyer on child adoption?”
- “Pretty sure the Russians had no impact on my vote. Russians did not cause me to vote for him.”
- “If it was serious the President would be there.”
Several of those responses align with the arguments being made by Trump and his team: the claim to transparency with Trump Jr.’s release of his emails and the “normal campaign activity” line. That last argument — that the meeting clearly wasn’t important or Trump himself would have attended — is new to us.
Among those who expressed “a lot” or “quite a bit” of concern, the most common reason offered was worry about Russia’s attempts to influence the election and, more broadly, negative views of Russia as a hostile power. Second to that was distrust of Trump and his team.
Some quotes from this group (again lightly edited):
- “I’m old school, and I still don’t trust the Russians.”
- “Nepotism in the White House is rampant, a situation that cannot be ignored.”
- “Where there’s smoke there’s a wildfire with these people. There’s more to be discovered, and how deep the collusion runs is of huge concern.”
- “Because I don’t trust his father, his son isn’t too far behind him!”
- “I don’t think he has any idea what he is saying or doing.”
- “The whole family would shake hands with the devil for $10 and an hour of TV time.”
- “If you can reason, you know it’s treason.”
These, too, largely align with the criticism that has been offered more broadly. The last one here, too, is unique, perhaps inspired by the reemergence of O.J. Simpson in the news.
Although The Post-ABC poll found that most Americans thought the meeting was inappropriate, that’s not at odds with the results above. Many Americans likely thought that the meeting was inappropriate but weren’t too worried about it. One sign that this is the case was found elsewhere in our new poll: Since April — before the firing of James B. Comey as FBI director or many of the revelations about the investigation into Russian meddling — the number of Americans who said they think that the Trump campaign had worked with the Russians in that effort stayed about the same.
The SurveyMonkey poll, shared with The Washington Post, was conducted July 14-17 among 1,755 adults; 536 respondents who were concerned a lot/quite a bit concerned about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting provided a written response for why, as did 506 respondents who said they were concerned just some/very little. The responses are from those who participated in user-generated SurveyMonkey surveys during that period and agreed to participate in a follow-up survey. The survey used a non-probability sampling approach, so no margin of sampling error is calculated. Details on the sampling methodology are available here. Full question wording is below:
- Does the fact that Donald Trump, Jr. met with people connected to the Russian government concern you a lot, quite a bit, just some, or very little?
- Why? (Open-ended)
Scott Clement contributed to this report.