But more than half (52%) say they're not sure about Manafort's guilt
As the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort winds down, Americans – at least those with an opinion in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll – are prepared to say he is guilty of the crimes he is charged with, hiding income by lying to banks and evading taxes.
At least some of the increase since last week in the share believing Manafort is guilty has taken place among Republicans. Last week 22% of Republicans thought Manafort was guilty, now 27% do (though more than think he is not guilty). However, twice as many Republicans as Democrats aren’t sure about Manafort’s guilt or innocence.
The charges involving tax evasion are seen as very serious crimes by a majority; however, just 46% think lying to banks should be categorized as a very serious crime.
But even as the closing arguments in the Manafort case take place, many Americans have yet to focus on the trial. Although the share saying they haven’t heard anything about it has shrunk in the last week, one in three remain in the dark. Those who have been attentive are more likely to find guilt: those who have heard something about the trial think Manafort is guilty by five to one; among those who have heard a lot, the margin is more than seven to one.
Democrats have been more attentive than Republicans to the trial.
There is confusion, however, even among those who have been paying attention, about what Manafort has been charged with. One in five (Republicans as well as Democrats) say it is for collusion with Russia during the Presidential campaign – something which is not true. But whatever Americans think the charges involve, they agree he is guilty.
By two to one, the public believes Manafort can get a fair trial. Republicans are evenly divided on this. The last week of the trial has made little difference in this perception.
Opinions about the overall investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller continue to be political, with Republicans and Democrats divided on the investigation and on Mueller himself. 71% of Democrats believe the President did something illegal in his dealing with Russia during the campaign, while 78% believe someone other than he in his campaign did. For Republicans, the comparable percentages are just 11% and 19%. A majority of Republicans disapprove of the way Mueller is handling his job, but two in three Democrats approve.
Should the President agree to an interview with Mueller’s team? Yes, according to all Americans, but that’s not true for Republicans. A majority of them don’t believe the President should agree to an interview, though the percentage of Republicans supporting a Trump-Mueller sit down has risen nine points in the last week.
For Republicans, the investigation remains under a cloud. Most call it a witch hunt, and nearly half say the same thing about the FBI Manafort investigation. But overall, the public believes both are legitimate. For Republicans, it doesn’t matter whether people are paying attention to the trial or not. When it comes to opinion about the Manafort investigation, Republicans say it is not legitimate.