Americans are split over whether House Democrats should continue to investigate President Trump after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III made no determination about whether he attempted to obstruct justice during the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a Washington Post-Schar School poll finds.
The division marks a clear break from public support for Russia-related investigations at the start of the year, when an overall majority supported House Democrats’ efforts to examine whether Trump’s subordinates conspired with Russia as well as Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Six House panels are digging into aspects of Trump’s campaign, his finances and his efforts to discredit Mueller’s inquiry as a “witch hunt,” while they wrestle with Attorney General William P. Barr for access to Mueller’s full report and the underlying evidence that informed his conclusions. Mueller did not find that Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia in 2016.
An overwhelming 83 percent say the Mueller report should be made public in its entirety, and 57 percent say Barr — who described some of Mueller’s principal findings in a letter to Congress this month — has not released enough details about the report.
The Post-Schar School national poll, conducted Tuesday through Friday, underscores how much the political dynamics surrounding Mueller’s report have changed between when it was a work in progress and its completion just over one week ago.
Nearly 8 in 10 Republicans say they feel “satisfied” with the investigation’s conclusions, a strikingly positive assessment for a group that widely disapproved of Mueller’s handling of the investigation just last month.
Among Democrats, who long expressed faith in Mueller during the inquiry, 53 percent now say they are disappointed with its conclusions. And while most still approve of Mueller’s efforts, more than 6 in 10 Democrats do not accept his finding on whether Trump conspired with Russia.
Over the course of Mueller’s 22-month investigation, and as the special counsel racked up indictments of individuals in Trump’s inner circle, many Democrats in public office had expressed confidence that the inquiry would reveal something crippling about Trump, and were as shocked as once-skeptical Republicans were elated when Barr delivered Mueller’s principal conclusions.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the end of the investigation has done little to shake partisans’ convictions about Trump’s guilt or innocence. A 76 percent majority of Democrats thinks Trump committed serious wrongdoing related to Russian election interference or the investigation that followed, including nearly two-thirds who say he committed a crime. Separately, 8 in 10 Democrats think Trump tried to hinder the Russia investigation and committed obstruction of justice in the process.
Among Republicans, 15 percent think Trump committed serious wrongdoing, while 21 percent think he obstructed justice. Independents are split about evenly on both questions, with just under half both faulting Trump for serious wrongdoing and saying he obstructed justice.
The partisan split in public sentiment suggests that there is little incentive for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to alter their current positions as congressional investigations continue. Democrats have refused to accept Barr’s statement of Mueller’s principal conclusions as the exoneration that Republicans claim it is, rejecting the attorney general’s assessment that the evidence of obstruction Mueller uncovered was uncompelling.
Americans are skeptical of Trump’s claim of “complete and total exoneration” by the investigation’s conclusions, in contrast with Mueller’s description that while the report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on the issue of obstruction. By 61 percent to 32 percent, more Americans believe Mueller than Trump on this issue.
The Post-Schar School poll also shows there is now less overall support for Democrats’ investigating obstruction-of-justice claims against Trump than there was for investigations of Russia-related issues earlier this year. Just under half, 49 percent, say House Democrats should continue to investigate whether Trump interfered with the Russia investigation, while 48 percent say Democrats should stop investigating this issue.
In January, a Post-ABC News poll found that 57 percent of the public supported House Democrats’ investigating whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia, while 59 percent supported investigating Trump’s relationship and communications with Putin.
But the drop in support is less stark than the partisan divide over those matters: About 8 in 10 Democrats say their party should continue investigating whether Trump obstructed justice, while about 8 in 10 Republicans are opposed, and independents are split about evenly. Whereas in January, 6 in 10 independents supported Democrats’ investigations into collusion, the latest survey finds just under half support Democrats’ investigating obstruction of justice.
Notably, the poll finds little evidence that the report’s conclusions have significantly changed Americans’ willingness to reelect Trump. While 17 percent say the findings of the Mueller investigation make them “more likely to vote for Trump,” 30 percent say they are less likely to support him, and 51 percent say the findings make no difference in their vote. The result is similar among independents.
Mueller’s findings have also done little to affect how the public feels about impeaching Trump. The poll finds a 54 percent majority saying Congress should not begin impeachment hearings, only a slight shift from a January Post-ABC poll. The share of Democrats wanting to impeach Trump stands at 61 percent, little changed from 64 percent in January. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had largely dismissed the prospect before Mueller finished his report, and its findings appear to have dampened other lawmakers’ interest as well.
The Post-Schar School poll finds that a 55 percent majority of Americans say Democrats in Congress did not go too far in accusing Trump and his associates of conspiring with Russians, and 4 percent volunteered they didn’t go far enough. A 39 percent share of Americans say Democrats went too far.
Despite the partisan battles that have ensued over Mueller’s findings, approval of his handling of the investigation has remained stable overall. Over half of Americans, 53 percent, approve of the Mueller investigation, largely unchanged from the 51 percent who approved in February.
While a majority of Democrats and independents approve of Mueller’s handling of the now-completed investigation and similar proportions have for the course of its existence, Republicans are now net positive toward the Mueller investigation for the first time. By 46 percent to 40 percent, slightly more Republicans now approve rather than disapprove of the Mueller investigation. In February, they disapproved by a 48-point margin, 69 percent to 21 percent. Meanwhile, Democrats’ approval of Mueller has dropped from to 77 percent in February to 62 percent today.
The end of the Mueller investigation has also done little to shrink Democrats’ and Republicans’ deep divisions over whether Russia actually tried to interfere in the 2016 election. About 6 in 10 Americans say that the Russian government tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, virtually unchanged from a Post-ABC poll in July 2017. An 83 percent majority of Democrats say the Russian government tried to influence the election; a 54 percent majority of Republicans say Russia did not try to influence the vote. In 2017, 80 percent of Democrats said Russia tried to influence the election, and 55 percent of Republicans say Russia did not try to do so.
The poll was conducted by The Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University over landline and cellular phone March 26-29 among a random sample of 640 adults. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.