Former FBI director James B. Comey’s book tour began in earnest Sunday night in a pretaped interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos. Details from the book had been reported previously — and President Trump had made his feelings known repeatedly on Twitter — but the ABC interview marked the start of a new phase of promotion for “A Higher Loyalty,” which will be released officially on Tuesday.
Stephanopoulos asked Comey to respond to Trump’s repeatedly calling him a liar.
“People have to make their own judgments about other people,” Comey replied.
For those who’ve been tracking the often-tense interactions between Trump and Comey over the past year, there’s a question that’s hard to avoid: Who, exactly, is still out there who hasn’t made up his or her mind? Most things in American politics are by now largely set in stone, with members of one party strongly opposed and the other strongly supportive and independents landing somewhere in the middle. Won’t Comey’s book just land on that spectrum, evoking the same responses we’ve come to expect?
To some extent, sure. But a surprisingly large number of Americans still haven’t been exposed to Comey enough to have an opinion of him, and those Americans may find something in the new public relations push to convince them.
The Washington Post and our polling partners at ABC News released the results of a new poll on Friday that looked at views of Comey. His favorability rating was about even, with 32 percent of Americans viewing him unfavorably and 30 percent viewing him favorably. But a plurality of 38 percent said that they had no opinion of the former FBI director.
Nonetheless, nearly half of the country found Comey more believable than Trump (with only 1 in 10 having no opinion on that question).
As noted above, there’s a familiar partisan split on that second question. Democrats find Comey more believable; Republicans, Trump. Independents come down a bit more on the Democrats’ side (as they often do on Trump questions).
Interestingly, 12 percent of those who approve of Trump have no opinion on who’s more believable, Trump or Comey. Nearly 1 in 5 of those who voted for someone besides Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016 say the same thing.
More than half of 2016 third-party voters have no opinion of Comey. But neither do nearly a third of Republicans and 3 in 10 Democrats.
A third of Democrats and Republicans and 4 in 10 independents have no opinion of the man Trump fired as head of the FBI last May.
Some of those with no opinion probably were familiar with Comey but unable to decide between a favorable or unfavorable view. Others simply didn’t know much about him. If they’ve managed to go past 11 months without hearing about him, they probably will miss his book tour, too — but appearances on shows such as ABC’s “20/20” may make inroads that other media appearances didn’t.
How is it that nearly 40 percent of Americans have no opinion of Comey but 48 percent of the country still thinks he’s more believable than Trump? Part of it may be that most Americans are very familiar with Trump — and consider him dishonest. As it happens, about 4 in 10 of those with no opinion of Comey view him as more believable than Trump, twice the number that say the opposite.
Once that group of Americans with no opinion of Comey — or the 1 in 10 with no opinion of who’s more believable — see Comey’s media push this week, it’s likely that many will end up siding with those who share their political views. What Comey hopes, of course, is that he can convince them that he’s the one telling the truth.
Well, what he really hopes over the short term is that they’ll buy his book.