But Americans are more likely to believe Comey than Trump
James Comey may have a best-seller on his hands, but he is not well-liked. Special Counsel Robert Mueller fares better with the public. And that may help Mueller avoid what happened to Comey: more Republicans (as well as Democrats and independents) in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll say the President should not fire Mueller as believe he should.
That doesn’t mean that Republicans like what Mueller is doing. A majority of Republicans disapprove of the way Mueller is handling the job of Special Counsel (among the entire public, 37% approve and 29% do not). While Republicans are dubious about the legitimacy of the investigation (and a majority of them continue to believe the President is being framed by the FBI), there is relatively little support for getting rid of Mueller. Public support for the appointment of a Special Counsel in general outweighs opposition by nearly two to one.
Looking back at the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, however, there are clear party divisions. Republicans overwhelmingly approve the President’s 2017 decision to fire Comey. The public overall disapproves 37% to 32%.
There has been little change in how the public feels about Comey since the firing. More have an unfavorable opinion of Comey than see him in a positive light. That has frequently been the case in EconomistYouGov polls. But when it comes to putting Comey’s believability against that of President Trump’s, Comey comes out ahead.
Deciding who is more believable is, of course, a partisan assessment. Neither man is especially well-liked (with Comey’s unfavorable ratings leading his favorable ones, 37% to 30%, and President Trump’s unfavorable ratings outpacing positive ones, 50% to 39%). As soon as the President fired Comey last year, Democrats gave the former FBI Director a favorable rating ,even though he had reopened the investigation of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails before the 2016 election, something many believe cost her the election. That positive assessment from Democrats has continued. This week, 51% of Democrats see Comey favorably, only 17% do not.
Views of Mueller are better than views of either Comey or the President, though many say they have no opinion of him.
Last year’s firing of Comey is seen as unjustified and even more likely to be considered hasty, perhaps reflecting the continuing publicbelief that as President Trump reacts too quickly and doesn’t usually follow his advisers’ guidance.
One decision many Americans object to is last week’s pardon of “Scooter” Libby, the former George W. Bush aide who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice a decade ago. By nearly two to one, Americans disapprove of that decision. Only one in five think the pardon was given to “correct an injustice.” While Libby’s prison sentence was commuted by President Bush, he let Libby’s conviction stand.
For many Americans, the Russia investigation matters. A majority continue to be concerned about improper relations between the Trump campaign and Russia, though just one in four Republicans say they are concerned. By 42% to 27%, Americans think the President has tried to influence the investigation.
Has the President done anything that could be considered a serious crime? More than a third think he has, but nearly the same percentage disagree. And the responses on this question are clearly partisan, with independents evenly divided.
With an investigation like the Russia investigation, anyone – not just the President – would need an attorney. Despite the seizure of documents from President’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s office last week, many don’t see that as a condemnation of the President’s legal team. Americans say the President has better than average lawyers, but they also think the Special Counsel’s legal team is better than average. But one problem many in the public have is that they don’t believe the President takes his attorneys’ advice, just as he isn’t seen as taking other advisers’ guidance. Only 14% of Republicans believe the President follows his lawyers’ advice very closely.
The President’s overall approval rating remains at 38%. This week, 53% disapprove.