Most Americans think the Saudi government is responsible for Khashoggi's death
The American people are not buying the Saudi Arabian government’s responses to the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul Consulate earlier this month, according to last weekend’s latest Economist/YouGov Poll.
It is a story most Americans are aware of (nearly eight in ten say they have heard at least something about the case), and they overwhelmingly believe the Saudi government was responsible for the killing. That belief is shared by both Democrats and Republicans.
Hardly anyone accepts one recent official Saudi explanations for Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the Consulate to procure a document he needed for his impending marriage – that he was killed in a fist fight that began during an interrogation in the Consulate. Only 6% believe that claim, and ten times that many (60%) don’t believe it. Republicans and Democrats agree on this, though Republicans are somewhat more willing to give the Saudis the benefit of the doubt.
That same partisan pattern appears in response to the question of whether or not there should be US sanctions on Saudi Arabia in response to Khashoggi’s death. More Americans, Democrats and Republicans, favor sanctions than oppose them, but nearly half of Republicans (and half of independents) aren’t sure what the US response should be. [Independents are the least likely to say they have heard anything about Khashoggi: 29% of them say they have heard nothing at all, something just 17% of Democrats and Republicans admit.] Overall, 45% favor sanctions while 15% do not. Among Republicans, 36% support sanctions, 20% do not.
There is little love for the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in this poll. Just 10% have a favorable opinion of him, 50% are unfavorable. He fares a little better with Republicans, though not by much. 12% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of the Crown Prince, 45% do not.
Most aren’t sure whether to think of the Crown Prince as a liberal reformer or as a traditional conservative: 55% of Americans aren’t sure. Those with an opinion, by three to two, see him as more like other conservative Saudi leaders. Republicans give MbS the reformer label, 32% to 18%.
Saudi Arabia is seen as more unfriendly than friendly towards the United States; while opinion of Turkey is more evenly divided. 45% view Saudi Arabia as an unfriendly country or an enemy in this week’s poll. Fewer see Turkey that way.
President Trump does not get high marks on his handling of the American response to Khashoggi’s death: 29% approve, 41% do not. This is in contrast to the President’s overall approval rating and especially the positive marks he receives on his handling of the economy. This is the first time in the Trump Administration as many as 50% of the public approves of President Trump’s handling of the economy.