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How Americans view Mueller and impeachment, in five charts

Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will testify before Congress on Wednesday about his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump.

Mueller’s testimony comes as Democratic lawmakers are facing increasing pressure from liberals to start impeachment hearings against Trump. Last week, Republicans and a majority of House Democrats voted to kill an impeachment resolution against the president. A large minority of Democrats — 95 in all — voted in favor of impeachment, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has rebuffed this group, emphasizing the ongoing process of congressional committees investigating various issues.

Public opinion polls show that Americans have nuanced views on Trump and the results of the Mueller investigation. Here are five key findings indicating what the public thinks about issues at the heart of Mueller’s testimony.

1. Most Americans oppose impeaching Trump, and support hasn’t shifted in wake of the Mueller report’s release. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll earlier this month, 59 percent of Americans said the House should not begin impeachment proceedings. That’s slightly higher than Post polling throughout the year, which found opposition to impeachment at 54 percent to 56 percent.

A much smaller 37 percent supported impeaching Trump in the latest poll, though this rises to 61 percent among Democrats. About half of Democrats, 49 percent, support impeachment “strongly.”

2. Americans largely see Mueller as credible, and Republicans grew more positive toward him after his investigation ended. As news broke for more than a year about Russian efforts to influence the election and connections with Trump’s campaign, large majorities of Democrats approved of the way Mueller was handling the investigation, while fewer than half of Republicans gave him positive marks. But Republicans’ positive views of Mueller increased sharply after the end of the investigation while Democrats’ decreased, an indication that the result of the probe was seen as better for Trump than the public had expected.

In a Post-Schar School poll conducted shortly after Attorney General William P. Barr released his memo on Mueller’s findings in March, 46 percent of Republicans approved of Mueller’s handling of the investigation, more than doubling from the 21 percent who had approved of Mueller a month earlier. Approval among Democrats declined from 77 percent in February to 62 percent after the investigation wrapped up. Among Americans overall, 53 percent approved of Mueller’s efforts while 30 percent disapproved.

A Pew Research Center poll last week found majorities across party lines expressing confidence that Mueller conducted a fair investigation, with positive marks up sharply since January among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

3. A plurality said the findings of the investigation won’t change their 2020 vote. Just over 1 in 3 Americans in an April Post-ABC poll said the findings of Mueller’s investigation made them less likely to support Trump for reelection in 2020, 14 percent said they were more likely to vote for him, and 46 percent said the findings would not factor into the vote.

The largest share of people who said they were more likely to oppose Trump because of the findings are Democrats, 66 percent of whom said the investigation’s findings made them more likely to oppose Trump. A majority of Republicans (61 percent) said it was not a factor, along with 48 percent of independents.

4. But most Americans don’t think Mueller exonerated Trump. Indeed, most said the Mueller report did not clear Trump of wrongdoing and that the president lied about the matters under investigation. In the April Post-ABC poll, a 53 percent majority said the Mueller investigation did not clear Trump of all wrongdoing, though Trump declared “total exoneration” by the special counsel. Just over three in 10 said the report cleared Trump.

There was a large partisan division on this question, with 61 percent of Republicans saying Mueller’s investigation cleared Trump of all wrongdoing and 87 percent of Democrats saying it did not clear him. Mueller’s report states that while it “does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

In the same April poll, a 58 percent majority said Trump lied to the American public about matters under investigation by Mueller and 31 percent said he told the truth. Nine in 10 Democrats said he lied, while almost 7 in 10 Republicans said he told the truth.

5. Americans are more divided over whether Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s probe. In the April Post-ABC poll, 47 percent said Trump tried to interfere in the Russia investigation in a way that amounted to obstruction of justice, while 41 percent said he did not do this.

The opinions showed a sharp partisan division, with about 8 in 10 Democrats saying he tried to interfere in a way that amounted to obstruction of justice and nearly 8 in 10 Republicans saying he did not. Independents were almost evenly split, with 46 percent saying Trump obstructed justice while 42 percent said he did not.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.