Half of Americans think Trump is personally involved in wrongdoing, as does about a quarter of Republicans (23 percent). Forty-four percent of respondents said the president acted unethically in regard to Michael Cohen’s claim that negotiations continued for a Trump building in Moscow during the 2016 campaign. Twenty-six percent say it was unwise, but not unethical, while hardcore Trumpists (23 percent) found nothing wrong with it.
Perhaps because of the Russia investigation, his overall approval rating remains at 39 percent. They don’t like his handling of major issues: “Around 4 in 10 approve of the way the president is handling immigration (39% approve), foreign trade (39% approve) and foreign affairs (36% approve).” Interestingly, the president’s climate-change denialism is especially unpopular; only 31 percent approve of his handling of environmental policy.
The intensity of his disapproval (44 strongly disapprove, while only 30 percent strongly approve) remains a consistent problem for him and those who will appear on the ballot with him in 2020.
Republicans who have thrown their lot in with Trump, by smearing the FBI and attacking Mueller, may please the hardcore base but, overall, they are on the wrong side of public opinion — even before the public knows more than a fraction of what Mueller does. If Mueller’s report has concrete evidence of wrongdoing, the true believers who will deny he did anything wrong very well could be below 30 percent. (That doesn’t mean that they necessarily want him to be impeached.)
That is how things stand today. However, does anyone think Trump’s standing will improve as Mueller’s investigation racks up more plea deals and indictments, setting out evidence of Individual-1′s wrongdoing as he goes along? That seems highly unlikely unless — and this is key — Democrats seem to overplay their hand or make the president and his family look sympathetic (as difficult as that might be to imagine.) They are well-advised to let Mueller do the work on Russia while they pursue policy oversight and examine other scandals (e.g., conflicts of interest) and outrages (e.g., Jared Kushner advising Mohammed bin Salman; the handling of hurricane Maria; the family separations policy; the notes from the translator at the Trump-Vladimir Putin meeting in Helsinki).
If Trump, who technically wasn’t on the ballot in 2018, is leading the party in 2020 with poll numbers like this and even more evidence of wrongdoing, Democrats will stand a solid chance of beating him — provided they don’t nominate a candidate unacceptable to a large segment of voters who would otherwise have abandoned Trump.
In short, Trump cultists may be incapable of accepting reality, but the large majority of Americans believe Trump did something(s) wrong and continues to lie about it. Republicans who fear the prospect of another electoral wipeout better start considering their options.