Americans approve of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's job performance 43% to 29%
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election has ended, but the latest Economist/YouGov Poll suggests the debate will continue. A majority of Americans agree with Congressional Democrats about wanting to hear from Mueller himself about the investigation and its findings.
Republicans today are divided on whether Congress should hear from Mueller. Two weeks ago, they narrowly opposed his testifying, 43% to 35%. While many Republicans are willing to hear from Mueller, Republicans increasingly dislike him and the report. After Attorney General William Barr released his four-page summary in March, Republicans approved of how Mueller had handled his job. But their approval of Mueller has slipped 10 points since then and their disapproval has risen by 12 points. Now, 32% of Republicans approve of Mueller’s job performance, and 47% disapprove. Overall, Americans approve 43% to 29%.
This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Russia investigation “case closed.” Republicans agree with him, but the country overall does not. By 42% to 36%, Americans want Congress to continue to hold hearings on interference, and by 44% to 35% they want Congressional hearings on obstruction of justice.
Attorney-General Barr’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee was divisive. While many aren’t sure what to think, by 33% the public says the Senate Judiciary Committee treated Barr fairly when he was testifying compared with 24% who say it did not treat him fairly. But Americans weren’t happy with the Committee’s performance, and 31% disapprove of the way it handled Barr’s testimony, compared with 23% that approved. Along partisan lines, one in four Democrats and nearly half of Republicans disapprove.
But Barr is not without his critics. One in three believe he lied to the Committee. Americans want him to testify more: there is support from both Democrats and independents for the House citing him for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
By 54% to 22%, Americans want the full report released to Congress. Now that the White House has claimed executive privilege, opinions could change, especially among Republicans. Currently, 31% of Republicans favor the complete release and 42% say it should not be released.
Although the Report detailed instances of Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election (and there have been indictments of more than a dozen Russians for election interference), more than a third of the public is dubious that interference ever happened. That’s especially the case for Republicans, a majority of whom describe Russian interference as something that probably or definitely didn’t take place.
73% of Republicans call the investigation a “witch hunt.”
Another partisan divide emerges on the idea of holding hearings specifically on possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. A majority (83%) of Democrats want obstruction hearings. The public narrowly supports that as well, 44% to 35%. But Democrats would take it further. Two-thirds of Democrats want to see the President impeached for obstruction of justice. That’s at odds with the public overall and at odds with both Republicans and independents. There is little difference between liberal and moderate Democrats on this question, and little difference by race, age or gender.