Only 13 percent of Republicans say that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is a “legitimate investigation.” Fully three-quarters of Republicans agree with President Donald Trump that it’s a “witch hunt.”
Meanwhile, 76 percent of Democrats consider it a legitimate investigation. That’s according to a new Economist/YouGov survey of 1,500 adults between May 6 and 8 about the investigation.
What’s more, 61 percent of Republicans believe the FBI is framing Trump. Just 17 percent of Republicans say the nation’s federal law enforcement agency isn’t after the president, and about a fifth — 21 percent — weren’t sure.
Twenty-five percent of independents think Trump is being framed, with 39 percent saying he is not. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats say Trump isn’t being framed, 7 percent of Democrats think he is, and 15 percent aren’t sure.
The responses to questions about Trump in this Economist/YouGov survey are an example of the country’s political polarization and reflect recent trends of Republicans losing confidence in the FBI. It’s also another sign of the effectiveness of Trump’s messaging with the GOP that Republicans are now so deeply skeptical of federal law enforcement.
Just last week, for example, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani referred to FBI agents who raided attorney Michael Cohen’s home and office as “stormtroopers,” and Trump tweeted about a book that claims he is being framed, saying: “A sad chapter for law enforcement. A rigged system!”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Republican Party is shifting toward Trump’s worldview. When Trump blasted professional football players who kneeled during the national anthem, Republicans’ approval of the NFL also dropped.
But Republicans’ newfound suspicion of law enforcement is far more troubling. Mueller’s investigation has indicted 19 people so far, but it’s now headed toward confrontation as Mueller’s team presses for an interview with Trump. Trump has cleaned house on his legal team and brought in new lawyers, including Giuliani and Emmet T. Flood, a skilled attorney who worked on Bill Clinton’s team during his impeachment. It signals a more aggressive approach to Mueller’s investigation, one that might force the special counsel to subpoena the president. A protracted court battle could follow, and if this recent poll is any indication, the country will remain bitterly divided over that fight.
There is one reassuring — if somewhat contradictory — finding in the poll, however. When respondents are asked whether the president should fire Mueller, only 34 percent of Republicans said he should. The exact same amount (34 percent) say he should not fire the special counsel. Another third are unsure.
Democrats, at 66 percent, overwhelmingly favor Mueller keeping his job, and 36 of independents agree Mueller should stay put.