Americans aren't really following Paul Manafort's trial

August 08, 2018, 5:00 PM GMT+0

But those following his suit are four times more likely to believe he's guilty than innocent

There’s not a lot of positive feeling about Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager now on trial on charges including tax evasion, bank fraud and conspiracy in the first case resulting from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Only 13% in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll have a favorable opinion of Manafort.

Nearly twice as many Republicans view Manafort unfavorably as favorably.

But is Manafort guilty? By more than four to one (35% to 8%), those who venture an opinion say he is. Republicans agree, 22% to 12%. But more than half the public is unwilling to take a position on this. They see several of the crimes he is charged with, particularly tax fraud, as very serious crimes. Fewer give that status to lying to banks.

Many don’t admit to knowing a lot about the trial yet. Fewer than one in four have heard a lot; 40% have heard nothing at all. Democrats are paying more attention than Republicans. In addition, a significant number overall are confused about what the trial is about, thinking instead it is about collusion with the Russians during the election. But the more people have heard about the trial, the more likely they are to know the charges are not about Russian collusion.

Manafort may not want to testify. Asked whether he is honest and trustworthy, only 8% think he is.

Generally, Americans think it’s possible for Manafort to get a fair trial (though Republicans are divided). But Republicans have been skeptical of the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation from the start. Three-quarters call the Special Counsel’s investigation a “witch hunt.” While this trial is not directly related to any Russian campaign activities, Republicans give the same label to the investigation of Manafort. The overall public sees it as legitimate.

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