“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said in his first public comments since his 448-page report came out in April. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”
What Mueller said wasn’t new; he was simply reiterating what was in the document. But some Trump critics believed that hearing Mueller say these words out loud might do more to shift people’s attitudes about whether the president committed a crime.
Mueller’s comments did succeed in drawing a fresh wave of attention to the report, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds. But they did less to change minds.
About half of those polled say they’ve seen, heard or read Mueller make the comment cited above. But most Trump voters who saw or heard those remarks still told pollsters they believe that Mueller’s report fully cleared the president of wrongdoing.
Trump’s opponents, meanwhile, remain overwhelmingly convinced that the report was damning, to the extent that most believe it supports Trump’s impeachment. And less politically engaged Americans are, for the most part, still not paying very much attention.
WHO TUNED IN, AND WHAT THEY HEARD
Only 29% of Americans, the poll finds, say they’ve read any of Mueller’s report. By contrast, 69% say they heard at least something about Mueller’s statement ― about a third from watching at least part of it themselves, and the rest via watching clips or reading news stories later.
Among those who’d heard at least something about Mueller’s statement, nearly half said they’d watched coverage on cable TV. Smaller shares followed coverage on local TV (39%) or online news sources (37%), with fewer than a fifth citing social media, radio, printed media, or conversations with others as a source of information.
What exactly those cable viewers saw, of course, varied with their choice of channel. After the Mueller report was first released, as The Washington Post noted, the major outlets “were consistent in saying that the special counsel found no evidence of collusion,” but diverged in their coverage of potential obstruction.
A swath of more recent news stories highlighted a Fox News viewer who said she was startled to learn last week that Mueller’s report had anything less than positive to say about Trump.
“I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before,” Michigan resident Cathy Garnaat told reporters. “I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report and President Trump has been exonerated.”
Fox News viewers, the HuffPost/YouGov survey finds, were somewhat less likely than other cable watchers to say they’d seen Mueller refusing to say Trump didn’t commit a crime. But the much bigger determining factor, the poll suggests, isn’t which outlets Americans are watching, but whether they’re watching the news at all.
Among people who said they’d followed coverage of the Mueller report on cable TV, 87% of MSNBC viewers, 78% of CNN viewers, and 71% of Fox News viewers all said they were aware of Mueller’s quote. All of those demonstrate a level of recognition much higher than the public at large.
There are a few caveats worth keeping in mind with regard to the above numbers. First, the survey was taken beginning the evening of Mueller’s statement, when some people may not yet have had the chance to go through the day’s news. Second, survey respondents are generally more civically engaged than the average American, and people also sometimes have a tendency to overstate their levels of engagement ― both factors that could inflate these numbers.
Last, and unsurprisingly, Fox News’ viewership is disproportionately supportive of Trump, while CNN and MSNBC viewers are more likely to oppose him, a factor that played a significant role in what viewers took away from each channel.
Just how significant? Here’s a chart showing how people who said they’d heard the quote reacted earlier in the survey, when they were asked whether or not Mueller’s report totally cleared Trump.
About three-quarters of Trump voters who say they heard Mueller declining to say that Trump hadn’t committed a crime also still say they believe that Mueller’s report cleared the president of any wrongdoing ― making them actually more likely than those who hadn’t seen that quote to believe that Trump has been fully vindicated.
By contrast, 90% of Hillary Clinton voters who saw the quote said that Mueller’s report didn’t clear Trump, as did about half of the Clinton voters who hadn’t seen the quote or weren’t sure if they had.
Nonvoters were the least likely of any group to say they’d seen the quote. Those who did mostly said that Mueller’s report was not an exoneration, while those who hadn’t were mostly unsure.
MINORITY OF THE PUBLIC SAYS MUELLER REPORT CLEARS TRUMP
Overall, the HuffPost/YouGov survey finds, 28% of Americans think Mueller’s report clears Trump of any wrongdoing. Forty percent say the report does not clear Trump, with another 32% still unsure. (An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, also released Monday, found nearly identical results, with 29% of Americans saying the report clears Trump of wrongdoing, 42% saying it does not, and 29% unsure.)
Americans say, 46% to 31%, that they believe Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s investigation, according to the HuffPost/YouGov poll ― fairly similar to the 43% to 34% margin on the same question in an April survey. Also remaining relatively stable are the numbers on Mueller’s job rating (Americans are 16 points more likely to approve than disapprove, compared to 14 points in April) and the share of the public who believes the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia is a very serious problem (27% in April, 30% now).
Only 26% of Americans currently say they feel they understand Mueller’s findings very well.
MOST DEMOCRATS WANT TO SEE TRUMP IMPEACHED
Measuring support for impeachment is a difficult task. Pollsters often find significantly diverging results, depending in part on the framing of the question and the response options provided. But as a general rule, the prospect continues to poll underwater among the general public, even as it draws majority support from Democrats. In May, other outlets found support for impeachment ranging from 32% to 45% nationally, and from 60% to 76% among Democrats.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll asked a few different questions designed to elicit reactions both about impeachment in general and about whether Mueller’s report, specifically, provided sufficient material to warrant it.
Only 3 in 10 Americans say Mueller’s report shows outright that Trump is unfit to be president. Those asked a simple question on whether or not Trump should be impeached or removed from office say very narrowly, 42% to 38%, that he should not. Those asked whether Mueller’s investigation justifies such actions are split slightly closer to even.
Across all three questions, Democrats are in favor of impeachment, although the exact level varies. Fifty-nine percent say the report shows Trump is unfit to be president, two-thirds say the report justifies impeaching and removing Trump, and three-quarters say Trump should be impeached and removed.
Americans’ overall support for impeachment looks pretty similar to where it stood in April, although there are signs of a possible uptick among Democrats ― those asked the simplest question about impeachment were 9 points more supportive than those polled a month ago, although the percentage who said Trump was unfit to be president showed less change. Another recent poll, from CNN/SSRS, found rebounding Democratic support for impeachment in the wake of Mueller’s comments.
At least 54 members of the House of Representatives have publicly called for the launch of an impeachment inquiry, but the idea still faces resistance from some Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Although a 54% majority of Democrats think that most or all of their party’s representatives in the House support impeachment, about a third say that just some or almost none do, with the rest unsure. They sense somewhat broader enthusiasm among their crop of 2020 candidates: Sixty-four percent say most or all of the presidential contenders support impeachment. In fact, 11 of the two dozen or so Democratic contenders have so far expressed support for launching an impeachment inquiry.
Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted May 29-30 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.