Americans say it's inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his rival

September 25, 2019, 4:45 PM GMT+0

Many Americans aren’t quite sure how to categorize Ukraine – a country at the center of what has become an impending impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives. Four in ten in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll couldn’t say if Ukraine is a friend or enemy of the United States.

Those with an opinion, whatever their partisan preference, are more likely to think of Ukraine as a friendly rather than an unfriendly country.

President Trump’s summer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is now a focus of the Congressional inquiry. Did the President threaten to withhold foreign aid to Ukraine if it did not investigate former Vice President (and current Democratic presidential candidate) Joe Biden and his son Hunter for corruption? What is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Overall, the public finds it inappropriate for the President to threaten to withhold foreign aid if it doesn’t do what the President wants. It also is inappropriate for a President to ask another country to open an investigation of a political opponent. The largest percentage think it is inappropriate for a President to threaten withholding foreign aid if a country won’t take action that might personally benefit a President.

Republicans mostly take different positions, finding the first two actions appropriate. However, the percentage drops significantly if it becomes a matter of withholding foreign aid in order to provide a personal benefit to a president.

As for a whistleblower filing a complaint against the President, the public overall finds that appropriate. Republicans disagree.

Many respondents in this poll are as yet unfamiliar with the details of this issue. Less than a third say they had heard a lot about the phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky or a lot about the whistleblower’s complaint. So opinion on these questions could change.

When it comes to important national security institutions, Americans are not particularly confident. Only about a third have a lot of confidence in the Central Intelligence Agency and in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (and a third of Republicans have little or no confidence in the FBI). As for the President himself, 48% say he has been careless in handling classified information. 29% – and most Republicans – disagree.

The President’s overall approval rating remains stable, at 41% overall. 40% approve of his handling of foreign policy overall. Most have doubts about how Mr. Trump would handle an international crisis. Just 32% are confident in him, while 52% are uneasy about his approach.

However, the President’s overall standing has been helped by the easing of Americans’ jitters about the economy. For the first time since early August, Americans are more likely to say the economy is improving as say it is getting worse. And the President’s economic job approval is back in positive territory.

See the full toplines and tables results from this week's Economist/YouGov poll.

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