Donald Trump's approval rating is essentially unchanged at a historically weak 39 percent after the release of the Mueller report, just three in 10 Americans accept the president’s claim to have been exonerated and 58 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the president lied to the public about the matters the special counsel investigated.
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Nonetheless, support for impeachment is at a new low, 37 percent, in the national survey, albeit not significantly different from earlier this year. It rises to 62 percent among Democrats but falls sharply to 36 percent among independents and just 10 percent among Republicans. And while nearly six in 10 overall say Trump lied, there’s a closer division – 47-41 percent – on whether or not he obstructed justice.
The public overall appears cautiously supportive of the Mueller report, which Trump has characterized as “a total hit job.” Fifty-one percent in this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, call the report fair and even-handed – just a bare majority, albeit far more than the 21 percent who say it’s unfair. Still, that leaves many, 28 percent, who are withholding judgment on whether Mueller’s report is fair or not.
While criticizing the report, Trump has claimed “complete and total exoneration” in its findings. Again the public’s response differs: Thirty-one percent say the report cleared Trump of all wrongdoing, almost entirely an ingathering of his political supporters. Many more, 53 percent, say the report did not exonerate Trump. An additional 16 percent have no opinion.
There’s evidence beyond his approval rating that the Mueller report isn’t moving many people off their preexisting political positions. Americans are twice as likely to say the report makes them think more negatively than more positively of the Trump administration, but the numbers are relatively low, 23 and 11 percent, respectively. Instead, 58 percent say their opinion of the administration is unchanged.
Looking ahead to 2020, nearly half the public, 46 percent, say the report won’t be a factor in their vote for president. Of the rest, many more say it makes them more likely to oppose Trump for re-election than to support him, 36 vs. 14 percent. That’s a broad 22-point net negative for Trump, although demographically many in this group look unlikely to support him anyway.
Election integrity is a substantial concern. Forty-two percent say Russian interference undermined the legitimacy of the 2016 election, although 49 percent think it didn’t rise to that level. And more, 53 percent, say possible interference by Russia and other countries threatens the legitimacy of the 2020 election. (Those who say so divide on whether or not this is a major threat.)
Thirty-nine percent of Americans approve of Trump’s overall performance as president, a number that’s been essentially steady across his presidency, ranging narrowly from 42 percent just after he took office to 36 percent on multiple occasions. His career average approval rating remains the lowest on record for a president at this point in office in polls dating to the Truman administration in the mid-1940s.
Disapproval of the president’s job performance, at 54 percent, likewise is not significantly different from his career average, 57 percent. That said, it’s down from its peak, 60 percent last August and 59 percent in November 2017.
Trump’s approval rating is sharply partisan, peaking at 78 percent among Republicans, 83 percent among highly conservative Americans and 77 percent among evangelical white Protestants, a core Republican group. Those compare with 6 percent among Democrats and 9 percent among liberals. But it’s the political middle that turns the tide against Trump: Among independents, 40 percent approve of his job performance; among moderates, 30 percent.
That said, 40 percent approval from independents is a numerical high for Trump in that group, and up 8 percentage points since January. That increase has been counteracted by a 6-point decline among Democrats.
These divisions are apparent across other population groups. A wide gender gap remains, with Trump’s approval rating 15 points higher among men than among women, 47 percent vs. 32 percent. His 51 percent approval among whites drops to 20 percent among nonwhites overall, including 20 percent among Hispanics and 10 percent among blacks.
Strong criticism of the president continues to outpace strong support: Forty-five percent of Americans strongly disapprove of his work in office while 28 percent strongly approve. That 17-point gap in intensity of sentiment is near the average, 22 points, since he took office.
Impeachment and partisanship
Support for impeachment proceedings against Trump is down from a peak of 49 percent when first asked in an ABC/Post poll last August; it was 40 percent in January and, as noted, is 37 percent now. A slightly different question on Bill Clinton – whether he should be impeached and removed from office – peaked at 41 percent support in September 1998 and averaged 31 percent from August to December that year.
Support for impeachment is down since August across demographic and ideological groups. Most striking is a 28-point drop among college-educated white women, from 54 percent support to 26 percent. Support among women overall has dropped 16 points, from 57 to 41 percent. It’s been steadier among men, 34 percent now compared with 40 percent last summer.
Notably, intensity of sentiment on impeachment runs in the opposite direction as intensity in Trump approval. In this case, more strongly oppose beginning impeachment proceedings, 43 percent, than strongly support it, 29 percent. That reflects a 10-point rise in strong opposition since August, and an 11-point decline in strong support.
As with Trump’s approval rating, sharp partisanship marks views on impeachment. Support for starting impeachment proceedings is highest among blacks (69 percent), Hispanics (64 percent), Democrats (62 percent) and liberals (60 percent), while opposition peaks at 87 percent among Republicans.
The difference in strength of sentiment is stark – 53 percent of Democrats strongly support impeachment, while 78 percent of Republicans are strongly opposed. Similarly, 47 percent of liberals strongly support it, while 65 percent of conservatives are strongly opposed.
Further, 59 percent of independents and 55 percent of moderates think Congress should not begin impeachment proceedings.
As noted, there’s a closer split on whether Trump tried to interfere with the Russia investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice, 47-41 percent. Again, sharp party lines are drawn. Eight in 10 Democrats and 73 percent of liberals see obstruction. Three-quarters to eight in 10 in Trump’s core support groups don’t – 80 percent of strong conservatives and 77 percent of Republicans and evangelical white Protestants alike.
Political divisions, naturally, also mark responses to the Mueller report. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats don’t think it cleared Trump of all wrongdoing; this drops to half of independents and a quarter of Republicans. Six in 10 Republicans and three in 10 independents think the report exonerated Trump; just 6 percent of Democrats agree.
Those divisions exist despite similar confidence in the report across party lines – 56 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents call it fair and even-handed.
Partisan divisions reemerge when it comes to Trump’s response to the investigation. As noted, 58 percent overall think he lied to the American public about the matters under investigation by Mueller; this rises to 61 percent including those who volunteer that he lied some and told the truth some. Ninety percent of Democrats think he lied, while 69 percent of Republicans think he told the truth. Among independents, 28 percent think Trump told the truth, while 61 percent say the president lied.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone April 22-25, 2019, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 29-26-36 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey’s methodology here.