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Does Trump-Russia Relationship Pose Security Threat? Public Split

Thursday, May 18, 2017

President’s job approval moves decidedly downward

West Long Branch, NJ – Donald Trump’s approval rating has slipped into majority negative territory since the last Monmouth University Poll. The public is split over whether the president’s attitude toward Russia poses a national security threat for the U.S., although the level of concern increased after news broke about Trump’s conversation with Russian officials in the White House. A majority feel our allies will now be less willing to share sensitive intelligence information with the U.S. government after hearing these reports. The poll also found that most Americans believe that FBI director James Comey was fired in order to hinder the ongoing investigation into Russian ties with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

The president’s job rating currently stands at a net negative 39% approve and 53% disapprove. It was more evenly divided two months ago at 43% approve and 46% disapprove. Trump’s rating has dropped slightly among residents of the nearly 2,500 counties that gave him a victory margin of ten points or more, from 55%-33% in March to 51%-41% today. It has also dipped in the 400+ counties he lost by ten points or more – from 33%-57% to 28%-64% in the current poll. Trump’s biggest decline, though, came among residents of swing counties – the 300 counties where 2016’s winning margin was in the single digits – dropping from 41%-46% in March to 34%-54% in the current poll.

“Trump has been losing support in the places that matter most,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

When interviewing for the poll began on Saturday, the big news was the Comey firing. By the time the poll wrapped up, the headlines had moved to reports of Trump casually sharing sensitive intelligence information with Russian officials and the appointment of a special counsel. The Monmouth University Poll found an insignificant shift in Trump’s job rating during this period, going from 39%-51% in Saturday-Monday interviews to 39%-54% in Tuesday-Wednesday interviews. [Note: the poll did not take an independent sample on each day of interviewing. The poll results-by-day reported here reflect weighting adjustments to key demographic variables for each day’s interviews in order to make appropriate comparisons.]

Half (51%) of the public say they are concerned that the president is too friendly toward Russia, including 39% who are concerned a lot and 12% who are concerned a little. Another 45% are not concerned. Concern is just slightly higher than when Monmouth asked this question in March (48%), in January right before Trump took office (48%), and in August during the election campaign (45%). However, there was some movement in opinion while this poll was being conducted. In Saturday-Monday interviews, 35% said they are concerned a lot Trump is too friendly toward Russia, which increased to 43% in Tuesday-Wednesday interviews.

The public is divided on whether President Trump’s attitude toward Russia does (48%) or does not (46%) present a threat to national security. This opinion shifted dramatically, though, over the course of interviewing for this poll, going from 43% on Saturday-Monday who felt Trump’s approach to Russia poses a national security threat, to 52% who felt this way on Tuesday-Wednesday.

“Most Americans have been ambivalent about Trump’s overt admiration for Russia, even after he opened the White House to Russian officials who may have helped interfere in our election. That ambivalence may be evaporating now that the public found out what he shared with them, whether it was by design or by accident,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll added additional questions to the poll on Tuesday and Wednesday, after it was revealed that Trump shared intelligence information with Russian officials during a White House visit last week. Most Americans (73%) have heard about this incident and 37% are aware of published reports that the information was obtained from Israel.

Americans tend to disagree with national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s view that what Trump shared in that meeting was “wholly appropriate.” In fact, 42% say it was definitely not appropriate and 22% say it was probably not appropriate. Only 1-in-4 feel the information Trump shared with Russia was definitely (9%) or probably (17%) appropriate.

Over half (53%) say that this news is likely to hurt the U.S. relationship with Israel either a lot (33%) or a little (20%). Another 31% believe it will have no impact on U.S.-Israeli relations and 6% think it will actually help the relationship. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say that our other allies in the world will now be less willing to share sensitive intelligence information with the U.S. government because of this incident. Another 29% feel it will have no impact and 5% think it will actually make other countries more willing to share intelligence with the U.S.

On the FBI director’s firing, more Americans disapprove (50%) than approve (36%) of the president’s action. Only 20% of the public buys the original administration line that Comey’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation was the main reason for his dismissal. An overwhelming 72% say that other factors were more important, a view shared by majorities of Democrats (86%), independents (72%), and Republicans (53%) alike.

In fact, nearly 6-in-10 Americans think it is either very (40%) or somewhat (19%) likely that Comey was fired in order to slow down or stop the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links with the Trump campaign. Only 1-in-4 (24%) support ending this investigation, while 73% say it should continue. More than 4-in-10 say the probe should be transferred to an independent investigator alone (40%) or in partnership with the FBI (4%), while 26% say the Russia investigation should be left entirely with the FBI. Support for an independent investigator increased from 41% on Saturday-Monday to 49% on Tuesday-Wednesday. Last night’s news about the appointment of a special counsel broke too late to significantly impact these results.

“It’s getting very difficult to write topical poll questions when the lead stories are displaced in a matter of hours. We could write an entirely new survey script every day,” said Murray.

RESULTS BY DAY OVER POLLING PERIOD

 

Sat-Mon

Tue-Wed

Trump job rating?

 

 

--Approve

39

39

--Disapprove

51

54

Comey firing opinion?

 

 

--Approve

36

38

--Disapprove

46

51

Appoint independent investigator on Russia?

 

 

--Yes

41

49

--No

28

21

--End investigation

25

25

Concerned Trump too friendly to Russia?

 

 

--Lot

35

43

--Little

13

11

--None

46

44

Trump re Russia national security threat?

 

 

--Yes

43

52

--No

48

44

 

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from May 13 to 17, 2017 with 1,002 adults in the United States, although no interviews were conducted on Sunday May 14.  The results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

 

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                             

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)         

 

1.     Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president?

39%    Approve

53%    Disapprove

  8%    (VOL) No opinion

 

[Q2-4  held for future release.]

 

5.     Do you approve or disapprove of Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey?

36%    Approve

50%    Disapprove

  3%    (VOL) Haven’t heard

11%    (VOL) Don’t know

 

6.     The stated reason for firing Comey was his mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Do you think this really is the main reason Comey was fired or were other factors more important?

20%    Main reason Comey was fired

72%    Other factors more important

  8%    (VOL) Don’t know

 

7.     Trump said he had already decided to fire Comey even before he received a recommendation from the Justice Department. Does that make you more likely or less likely to think that other factors besides the Clinton investigation were behind Comey’s dismissal, or doesn’t it change your opinion?

33%    More likely

  4%    Less likely

59%    Doesn’t change opinion

  3%    (VOL) Don’t know

 

8.     Have you heard that the FBI has been conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links with the Trump campaign, or haven’t you heard about this?

89%    Heard

11%    Not heard

  0%    (VOL) Don’t know

 

9.     How likely do you think it is that James Comey was fired in order to slow down or stop that investigation – is this very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

40%    Very likely

19%    Somewhat likely

10%    Not too likely

27%    Not at all likely

  4%    (VOL) Don’t know

 

10.   Should the Russia investigation continue or should it end?

73%     Continue

24%     End

  3%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

11.   Should an independent investigator be appointed to take over the investigation or should the investigation remain with the FBI?

40%    Independent investigator

26%    Remain with FBI

  4%    (VOL) Both

  3%    (VOL) Don’t know who

24%    End investigation (Q10)

  3%    Don’t know about investigation (Q10)

 

12.   Are you concerned or not concerned that Donald Trump may be too friendly toward Russia?  [If CONCERNED: Are you concerned a lot or a little?]

39%    Concerned, a lot

12%    Concerned, a little

45%    Not concerned

  4%    (VOL) Don’t know

 

13.   Do you think Trump’s attitude toward Russia does or does not present a national security threat to the U.S.?

48%    Does

46%    Does not

  7%    (VOL) Don’t know

 

[NOTE: QUESTIONS X13A-E WERE ONLY ASKED ON 5/16 AND 5/17; n=455, m.o.e=+/-4.6%]

 

X13A.  Have you heard that President Trump shared intelligence information with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister when they visited the White House last week, or have you not heard about this? [If HEARD: Have you heard a lot or just a little?]

47%     Heard, a lot

26%     Heard, a little

27%     Not heard

 

X13B.  Have you heard the reports that this information was gathered by the Israeli intelligence services, or have you not heard this?

37%     Heard

36%     Not heard

27%     Not heard about Russia incident (Q14)

 

X13C.  According to reports, Israel shared classified terrorism information with the U.S. and the president decided to pass that information on to the Russians. In your opinion, were Donald Trump’s actions definitely appropriate, probably appropriate, probably not appropriate, or definitely not appropriate?

  9%     Definitely appropriate

17%     Probably appropriate

22%     Probably not appropriate

42%     Definitely not appropriate

10%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

X13D.  Do you think this situation will help or hurt our relationship with Israel, or will it have no impact? PROBE: Will it [help/hurt] a lot or just a little?

  3%    Help a lot

  3%    Help a little

33%    Hurt a lot

20%    Hurt a little

31%    No impact

10%    (VOL) Don’t know

 

X13E.    After hearing these reports do you think our other allies will be more willing or less willing to share sensitive intelligence information with the U.S. government, or will there be no impact on their willingness to share intelligence?

  5%     More willing

64%     Less willing

29%     No impact

  3%     (VOL) Don’t know

 

[Q14-24  held for future release.]

 

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from May 13 to 17, 2017 with a national random sample of 1,002 adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 501 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 501 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and SSI (RDD sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design).  Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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Monmouth University Poll

West Long Branch, NJ 07764
www.monmouth.edu/polling
Follow on Twitter: @MonmouthPoll

Patrick Murray

732-263-5858 (office)
pdmurray@monmouth.edu
Follow on Twitter: @PollsterPatrick

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