56% of Americans think Trump's public statements on the Russia probe have been mostly or completely false
47% of Americans approve of Mueller's handling of the Russia probe vs. 34% who disapprove
More Americans say they approve of how special counsel Robert Mueller is handling the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election than say they disapprove, a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS has found, while most Americans say President Donald Trump’s public statements on the probe have not been truthful.
Nearly half of Americans, 47%, say they approve of Mueller’s handling of the probe into Russia’s involvement in the presidential race and the possibility of collusion with the Trump campaign, which recently struck a plea deal with former national security adviser Michael Flynn. One third of Americans, 34%, say they disapprove. Nearly 1 in 5 people, 19%, are undecided on Mueller’s work so far.
But a majority of Americans say they disapprove of Trump’s handling of the same investigation, while just a third say they approve — a result that has held fairly steady over the last five months of CNN surveys.
Approval on the Russia investigation for both Mueller and Trump is largely divided along party lines. More than 6 in 10 Democrats, 63%, say they approve of Mueller’s handling of the probe, but more Republicans disapprove than approve by a 46% to 31%. A quarter of Republicans, 23%, say they don’t know. Notably, a majority of Americans who approve of Trump’s overall job performance, 53%, say they disapprove of Mueller’s handling of the probe.
Related: CNN’s Russia probe coverage
Trump’s approval on Russia is divided by even larger partisan splits, with 84% of Democrats disapproving while 63% of Republicans approve. Notably, only two in three Americans who approve of Trump’s job performance overall also say they approve of the way he’s handling the Russia investigation. Trump has repeatedly cast public doubt on US intelligence conclusions that Russia meddled in the 2016 election in favor of his presidential campaign.
The survey also reveals widespread mistrust of Trump’s public statements on the Russian investigation. A majority of Americans, 56%, say Trump’s comments on the Russia probe have been mostly or completely false vs. only 35% who say they’ve been true.
Notably, only 8% of Americans overall — including only 15% of Republicans and 18% of those who approve of Trump overall — say Trump’s comments have been completely true. Meanwhile, a broad 86% of Democrats say Trump’s comments have been false — including about 4 in 10 who say they have been completely false. But a similar 73% of Republicans say Trump’s comments have been true.
The survey also highlights sharp divides among whites by education on Trump’s public statements: whites without a college degree say Trump has been truthful by 50%-40%, while whites with a degree say he has not been truthful by a broad 32%-63% split.
Americans also say they see the investigation overall as legitimate. Six in 10 Americans, 61%, say the Russian meddling is a serious matter that should be fully investigated. Only a third of Americans, 34%, say the investigation is mostly an attempt to discredit the Trump presidency.
The partisan splits are stark: More than nine in 10 Democrats, 93%, say Russian meddling should be fully investigated, while almost eight in 10 Republicans, 78%, say it’s just an effort to discredit the President. The 16% of Republicans who see the Russian interference as a serious matter worthy of investigation in this poll is the lowest figure yet. Still, six in 10 independents say it should be seriously investigated.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS December 14-17 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.