No summit agreement, Cohen testimony: A bad week for the President

March 06, 2019, 6:00 PM GMT+0

47% say they would support Congress beginning impeachment proceedings if President Donald Trump is found to have committed obstruction of justice regarding the special counsel investigation into Russian interference

Last week’s failed summit between the U.S. and North Korea ended with no agreement, and with Americans not at all convinced that President Trump bested North Korea leader Kim Jong-un during the exchange.

In addition, while many hold negative opinions of Cohen and believe the President’s former lawyer is dishonest, more than a third of those in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll found his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee believable.

For Cohen – who is viewed favorably by only one in five Americans, and perceived as honest and trustworthy by even fewer (15%) – this may be seen as a personal success. He convinced most Democrats of his believability, though nearly two in three Republicans remain skeptical. The partisan split on Cohen’s testimony is also reflected in Cohen’s favorability ratings. Last December, only 11% of Democrats viewed Cohen favorably; now 32% – nearly three times as many – have a favorable opinion of him. Republican opinion of Cohen has changed little.

(Americans consistently take their cues as to how to evaluate people from their partisan identification: for example, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, though a GOP appointee, now scores better with Democrats than with Republicans since his 2012 vote declaring the Affordable Care Act constitutional.)

As for the content of Cohen’s testimony, which included charges of obstruction of justice by the President, the public is divided on whether or not that took place. However, a plurality agrees that if the President did in fact engage in obstruction of justice, Congress should begin the impeachment process.

Support for impeachment if there was obstruction is greater than belief that it happened among all party groups. Almost as many would support the beginnings of impeachment proceedings if President Trump asked for – or accepted – Russian assistance during the 2016 campaign. However, there is less belief that either of those things occurred. 41% say the President accepted Russian help (38% believe he did not), only 33% say he asked for that assistance.

For many Republicans, there is little proof that Russia did anything during the campaign to help President Trump. 76% of Republicans believe it is definitely or probably not true that Russia hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee; 75% say it is definitely or probably not true that Russia created and disseminated fake news to help the President in that campaign. Majorities of all adults say both those things likely took place in 2016.

Last week’s North Korea summit, which ended without an agreement, changed little in the way Americans look at negotiations with the “hermit kingdom”: they still want more. Two-thirds support direct negotiations with North Korea aimed at reducing or ending its nuclear program (most regard that program as a threat to the United States).

The public sees Trump as having the upper hand over Kim when it comes to negotiating skills: 38% say the President has good negotiating skills, while just 21% think this about Kim. However, Kim has the upper hand when it comes to being seen as a strong leader. 61% think Kim is a strong leader; 51% say this about the American President.

The summit was not a success for either side. By more than two to one, Americans describe it as “unsuccessful”. Just 13% believe President Trump got what he wanted from it; slightly more (21%) think North Korea got what it wanted.

Still, the failed summit may not have hurt the overall situation. 39% see no impact on overall U.S.-North Korean relations, and just 13% think the summit made things worse (25% think it made relations better).

As for the President’s overall job approval ratings, 43% approve of how he is handling his job overall, reflecting gains this week with Republicans and independents. His approval rating on handling the economy continues to be positive, his approval rating on foreign policy is not.

See full toplines and tables results here.

Image: Getty