Republicans and Democrats both want an independent FBI - and to see both House memos

February 07, 2018, 8:30 PM GMT+0

30% of Americans think the FBI is biased against President Trump

Despite the now clearly partisan views about the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its focus on possible Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. election, Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll continue to say they want the FBI to be independent of presidential administrations.

Those results have changed hardly at all since last week’s poll, taken before the release of the GOP-drafted House Intelligence Committee memo criticizing the Bureau. Democrats, independents and Republicans agree by varying margins. A third of Republicans, for example, believe senior FBI officials should be supporters of the President, though only one in four say the FBI should be “loyal” to him. Reports of President Trump requesting loyalty or wondering if a “senior FBI official was on his team” made headlines in recent months.

But while the public doesn’t believe FBI loyalty or support for the President is a necessity, assessments of the FBI today have taken on a clearly partisan tone. For many Republicans, the FBI is not just independent of the President – but downright hostile, and many object to that.

Two in three Republicans say the FBI is biased against Donald Trump. More than three in four Trump voters say that.

Democrats say instead that the FBI is unbiased in one direction or another. Independents are divided.

Responses take a similar partisan pattern – in the opposite direction – when it comes to evaluating any FBI bias in the 2016 investigation of Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. 53% of Republicans (and 82% of Trump voters) say the FBI was biased in favor of Clinton. Democrats and independents are more likely to say the FBI was not biased in either direction, as they do when asked about the President.

There is quite a bit of criticism about what the FBI has been doing in its recent investigations. In the case of the Clinton investigation, criticism comes from all sides. More in every party disapprove than approve of the FBI’s actions in that case.

The ongoing Russia investigation is seen through a political lens. The country is evenly divided, with Democrats approving and Republicans on the other side.

As for evaluating the FBI today, most Americans (52%) have a favorable impression. But nearly a third (29%) do not. Republicans are split down the middle, while Trump voters are clearly negative. Democrats and independents remain positive.

The latest debate, over the declassification and public release of a memo written by Representative Devin Nunes, the Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, finds a country divided on most – but not all – aspects of it. Half the public have heard or read at least parts of that memo, though only 12% say they have read it in full. There is little difference between Republicans and Democrats on their attentiveness to the memo, though Republicans are slightly more likely to have read the full memo. As many think the memo’s accusations of partisan bias are true as say they are not – though half the public have no opinion on this. Republicans say the memo should have been released, while Democrats disagree.

There is one thing Republicans and Democrats agree on, however: now that the GOP-written memo has been released, so should the Democratic rebuttal. And the House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Monday to do just that. The President will make the final decision this week.

The President’s own voters, along with those who supported releasing the GOP memo, want the Democratic memo released, too.

Read more topline and table results

Image: Getty