Most say foreign government should stay out of elections

December 07, 2018, 3:00 PM GMT+0

But there's no agreement on Russia and 2016

Is the Special Counsel’s investigation winding down? One sentencing memo was released last week (proposing no jail time for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn). But there is no schedule for the investigation’s end. Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll have little love for some of the individuals involved, and with Republicans and Democrats agree on some things, they are dramatically divided on the investigation itself.

Did Russia really interfere in the 2016 election? In principle, Americans don’t like the notion of other countries doing that. More than half of Republicans and 85% of Democrats in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll say it matters a lot to them if a foreign country interferes in American elections. But today that feeling is very much affected by the public’s opinion of the 2016 election, and is related to whether they believe Russia did or did not interfered in the Presidential election. That makes these answers very partisan.

Two-thirds of those who care “a lot” believe Russia did in fact interfere, but that drops to 35% among those who say foreign interference matters only “some,” and to only 12% among those who say it doesn’t matter at all. Russian interference has been attested to by the US intelligence community, but has been rejected by President Trump. Republicans, who give the President an 86% approval rating, clearly take his side on this. They reject the idea of Russian interference in 2016 by 56% to 31%. Those Republicans who are not yet committed to President Trump’s reelection (one in four Republicans) are more suspicious about Russia. They are as likely to think Russia did interfere as believe it did not.

In general, Republicans agree with the President about the Special Counsel’s probe. 79% believe it is a “witch hunt,” to use the President’s term, referenced in at least 129 of his tweets. For the rest of the country, there is a different view. The overwhelming majority of Democrats and a plurality of independents approve of the investigation.

Two individuals caught up in the investigation get little support from any party. Democrats and Republicans hold unfavorable views of Michael Cohen, the President’s former personal lawyer, who has pled guilty and cooperated with the investigation.

They also think poorly of Paul Manafort, who once was President Trump’s campaign manager. Manafort has angered both sides by first agreeing to cooperate with the investigation, but in now accused of lying to the Special Counsel’s team. As for the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Americans divide on party lines.

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