Favorable opinion of FBI has dropped from 52% to 43% since February

Investigations don’t seem to help anybody – even if there is no criminal finding. At least that’s what seems to be happening as the public reacts to the Department of Justice’s report on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails. Many Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll see her as culpable, though that has been the case all along. 

The FBI might be the biggest loser: the percentage with a favorable opinion of the Bureau has dropped 11 points since February. The drop comes from all partisan groups – Republicans, Democrats and independents, with Republicans having the most negative views. 

Most Republicans believe the agency is biased – towards Hillary Clinton (68%) during the email investigation, and against Donald Trump (67%) today in the Russia investigation. Most Democrats believe there is no bias in the Russia investigation, though fewer say that about the Clinton probe, with as many saying the FBI was biased against Clinton as say it was unbiased. 

As for the man in charge of the FBI during the Clinton email investigation, there isn’t a lot of love for James Comey from any part of the political spectrum. A majority of Democrats and Republicans agree that he did not handle the investigation properly, though the two parties likely have different reasons for saying that. Most Republicans (67%) say Comey should have been fired for how he handled the Clinton investigation, though only a quarter of Democrats agree. 

A majority of Democrats, and a third of Republicans, believe how the investigation was handled affected the outcome of the 2016 election.

Opinions about Clinton’s use of a private email server for government business are clearly negative in this week’s poll. But the findings on the specific questions about Clinton are not much different than they were in 2016, both in the summer, when Comey said Clinton had been “extremely careless,” and just before that year’s election, when Comey announced he was reopening the investigation. Comey then closed the probe, filing no criminal charges. In fact, opinions are marginally better today. In July 2016, 64% believed Clinton had done something wrong, this week, 55% say that. And Americans, both then and now, divide closely on whether they agree with Comey’s decision not to file criminal charges against Clinton.

The Inspector General’s critique of the Clinton investigation has done little to change the public’s view of the current investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, or to change minds on whether the President himself did anything wrong. 

By two to one, Americans approve of the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation; Republicans disapprove 45% to 30%.

They have a favorable opinion of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, but by a very narrow 5-point margin. By 42% to 17%, they don’t want him fired. Republicans are split. 30% believe Mueller should be fired, 27% disagree. 61% of Republicans say the President is being framed; the rest of the nation, by a wide margin, disagrees.

More continue to believe that the President has attempted to influence the investigation than think he hasn’t tried. Most Republicans say the President has not interfered.

Last Friday, just before the poll began, Paul Manafort, a one-time Trump campaign manager, had his bail revoked for possible witness tampering and was sent to jail. Some, especially Republicans, view this as an attempt to apply government pressure and get Manafort to flip on the President. While a majority expresses no opinion of Manafort’s guilt or innocence when it comes to the charges of financial crimes (not related to the Trump campaign), those with an opinion believe he is guilty. Republicans, two-thirds of whom say they have no opinion, are evenly divided.

Read more topline and tables results here.

Photo: Getty

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