President Donald Trump sent out a tweet Monday morning that suggested half of Americans don’t trust Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye, as is often the case with Trump whenever he talks about Russia.
The inquiry being led by Mueller is a sore spot for the president, who has often decried it as being a “witch hunt” as it gets closer to his campaign and White House inner circles. The moniker doesn’t seem to fit, however, as the investigation has resulted in a number of indictments, including guilty pleas from many of Trump’s associates, some of whom have agreed to cooperate with the special counsel.
Still, a tweet from Trump on Monday morning piqued the attention of many, as he seemed to insinuate that half the country was against the probe moving further.
Trump cited a USA Today/Suffolk University poll published earlier in the day, and he claimed 50 percent of respondents agreed that the investigation was a “witch hunt.”
“Very few think it is legit! We will soon find out?” Trump asked in his tweet.
There’s some truth, some falsehoods, and some context needed with Trump’s assertions made on Monday morning.
First, let’s take a look at the poll itself. It’s true that the findings revealed less support for Mueller’s inquiry than ever before. And 50 percent of respondents in that poll did say the investigation was a “witch hunt.”
Coincidently, 47 percent said the investigation was not a “witch hunt,” which makes the findings for both answers within the margin of error. That is, statistically the opinion of whether the investigation is a “witch hunt” or not is technically a tie.
There’s much more from the poll, however, that Trump didn’t reveal in his tweet. A higher percentage of respondents don’t trust him than believe the Russia inquiry is a “witch hunt.” Fifty-two percent of Americans said they have “little or no trust” at all that the president didn’t work alongside with Russia in the 2016 elections.
That number is lower than what previous polling has found, so 52 percent is actually a good sign for Trump, believe it or not. But there’s plenty of reasons for the president and his supporters to be cautious on this whole thing still.
The same USA Today/Suffolk poll found that Americans really, really want the findings of the Mueller report made public. More than 4-in-5 said that the report needed to be seen by all, with 62 percent saying making its findings public was “very important.”
That goes against what the president expressed he wanted to see happen three days ago, when he tweeted there shouldn’t be any Mueller report at all, per reporting from Politico.
So what’s going on here? Is this poll an outlier?
Most polling is done in a scientific manner, and the USA Today/Suffolk poll is no different. Still, there are times when the findings of one poll don’t match what has been the case in others.
A poll released on the same day as the USA Today/Suffolk poll demonstrates that there’s greater trust in Mueller than Trump says there is. The Hill/HarrisX poll, also published on Monday, found that 57 percent of Americans trusted Mueller and Democrats in Congress (they were polled together in questioning) to conduct investigations in a fair way; only 43 percent of respondents said they didn’t trust either to be fair.
Was the USA Today/Suffolk University poll completely wrong? Not necessarily. It turns out, it might just be the wording of that poll that has messed things up.
Remember, the USA Today/Suffolk University poll asked respondents to say whether they thought the investigation was a “witch hunt,” and the numbers stated above are accurate according to that poll’s findings.
The same poll, however, asked Americans to say whether they had trust in Mueller’s investigation or not (without using the words “witch” or “hunt” when asking). On that question, 55 percent of respondents said they had a lot or some trust in Mueller to be fair in his inquiry. Only 36 percent said they had little or no trust in the special counsel.
In other words, the very poll that Trump is trying to share, that he says demonstrates Mueller’s losing trust from the American people, actually shows that the American people trust Mueller a great deal.
Polls are weird things — sometimes “buzz” words can completely change respondents’ opinions to become something completely the opposite of what they really feel. The words “witch hunt” seemed to have done that in this instance.
So yes, 50 percent of Americans agree with Trump that the investigation is a “witch hunt” — but Trump’s assertion that very few find the inquiry to be “legit” is off-base completely.
There’s one more aspect to this entire ordeal that has to be talked about, and that’s the fact that Mueller has likely kept much of the more explosive evidence out of the public’s eyes. If he has damning evidence that hasn’t been released yet implicating Trump or someone close to him of wrongdoing (whether that’s Russian collusion or obstruction), that will likely affect people’s perceptions of the investigation, even further away from the president’s negative assertions.
We know this will be the case because it’s happened in the past. When the Watergate investigation began looking into who knew what about a break-in at the Democratic Party national headquarters, polling data from that time, too, found that most people thought the inquiry delving into President Richard Nixon’s inner-circle possibly being involved was just politics. Two years later, most Americans thought it was a serious crime worth looking into, per reporting and research done by the Washington Post.
We’ve seen plenty of bombshells so far from Mueller’s investigation, and most Americans still have shown they have greater trust in the special counsel than they do in Trump. Some “outlier” findings, due mainly to the wording of some questions rather than shifting opinions of Americans, seem to favor Trump’s belief that the people of this country are souring on the investigation.
In reality, now more than ever the American people want to see the findings of Mueller’s investigation. No amount of grandstanding on Twitter by the president can change that fact.
Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr