Americans are split over President Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as the director of the FBI, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey, although few trust the Trump administration’s official explanation for the termination.
A third of Americans say that Trump made the right decision, the poll finds, while 34 percent say he made the wrong decision.
Although the vast majority of Americans, 85 percent, say they’ve heard at least some news about the firing, they’re not all sure what to think about it. A full third of the public says that they’re unsure.
Among those who think Trump was in the wrong, 55 percent say that the president’s decision bothers them a lot, 24 percent that it bothers them somewhat and 20 percent that it bothers them only a little or not at all.
NEARLY HALF THINK TRUMP’S DECISION WAS RELATED TO RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Just 22 percent of Americans believe that Trump fired Comey because of Comey’s handling of the investigation into presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, the explanation initially given by the White House, with 47 percent saying they think another rationale was at play.
Similarly, 47 percent believe that Trump fired Comey at least partially to disrupt the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump campaign associates colluded with Russia. Just 26 percent think the firing was unrelated to the investigation.
TRUMP VOTERS LARGELY SUPPORT HIS DECISION, WHILE CLINTON VOTERS ARE OPPOSED
Seventy-two percent of voters who supported Clinton in last year’s election say that Trump made the wrong decision in firing Comey, while 83 percent of those who supported Trump think that Trump was in the right. Among non-voters and those who supported another candidate, views are less unified, with nearly half saying they’re unsure.
Although fewer than half of Trump voters think that Comey was fired for his handling of the Clinton emails, the majority reject the idea that he was attempting to disrupt the Russia investigation.
The level of polarization, while not unusual in the response to a political controversy, suggests that the concerns of some Republican senators over Comey’s firing haven’t trickled down to their base.
Not all of that base is aware that any unease exists in Washington. A 42 percent plurality of Trump voters say that they believe most Republican politicians have been supportive of Trump’s decision, with 7 percent saying most have expressed concerns and 34 percent that GOP politicians are divided between being supportive and expressing concerns. In contrast, a two-thirds majority of Clinton voters say they think most Democratic politicians have expressed concerns about the firing.
LITTLE CHANGE IN BROADER VIEWS ABOUT TRUMP AND RUSSIA
Views about the Trump’s administration’s relationship with Russia have undergone little change as a result of Comey’s firing. Americans say by a 16-point margin, 46 percent to 30 percent, that the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia is a legitimate issues, similar to the 13-point margin of those who said the same in a poll taken days before the firing. Forty-eight percent of Americans consider the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia a somewhat or very serious problem, virtually identical to the 47 percent who said the same earlier this week.
HOW OTHER SURVEYS STACK UP
The results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey closely match those of a Politico/Morning Consult poll also released Thursday, which found that 35 percent of voters thought Trump was right to remove Comey, 33 percent that he should have allowed Comey to continue and 32 percent unsure.
A third poll from NBC and SurveyMonkey, however, found a similar level of support for the firing but far higher opposition, with 38 percent of Americans calling the dismissal appropriate and 54 percent saying it was inappropriate.
There’s one major difference between that survey and the other two. The NBC/SurveyMonkey poll didn’t provide respondents with an explicit option to say they were undecided, although they were allowed to skip the question. The HuffPost/YouGov and Politico/Morning Consult polls gave people an option to say that they weren’t sure.
The variance suggests that people without a strong opinion on the subject, when pushed, tend to agree that the firing was a bad idea. That could mean that, as people hear more about the situation, they’re likely to disagree with Trump ― but it could also mean they’re unlikely to be deeply bothered by his actions.
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 10-11 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.
The Huffington Post 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. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. 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.