A ‘Witch Hunt’ With Popular Approval: Russia Poll Offers Political Inkblot

(CN) – A study in contradictions, a new poll triumphantly tweeted by President Donald Trump has something for his stalwart supporters and his harshest critics. Slim majorities agreed with Trump that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections is a “witch hunt,” and also that Democrats are correct to pursue it aggressively.

For Trump, the Suffolk University Political Research Center’s findings vindicated his longtime slogan.

“Wow! A Suffolk/USA Today Poll, just out, states, ‘50% of Americans AGREE that Robert Mueller’s investigation is a Witch Hunt,’” Trump tweeted this morning, making sure to tag the left-leaning news channel MSNBC. “Very few think it is legit! We will soon find out?” 

Setting aside that roughly half of respondents disagreed with the “witch hunt” characterization of the probe, several other questions in the survey did not tilt in Trump’s favor. More than 51 percent expressed “little or no trust” in Trump’s denials of collusion with the Kremlin.

The public overwhelmingly supports the release of Mueller’s report, with more than 61 percent calling that outcome “very important” and roughly 20 percent finding it “somewhat important.”

That is a bipartisan rebuke of Trump, who tweeted on Friday that “there should be no Mueller report.” Trump had been expressing the view that Mueller’s report should not be written in the first place, rather than buried, but his Senate ally Lindsey Graham blocked the chamber on Friday from voting on resolution passed 420-0 by the House in support of the report’s public release.

Democrats accounted for a 3 percent majority of the 1,000 people surveyed for the Suffolk poll, but 35 percent identified as “conservative” or “very conservative” as opposed to the only 22 percent who called themselves “liberal” or “very liberal.”

In a phone interview, Suffolk University Political Research Center’s director David Paleologos called this pool of respondents fairly typical of national polls, and he expressed surprise at the survey’s headline-grabbing result.

“We didn’t expect the finding to be this, by the way,” Paleologos said, referring to the results of the “witch hunt” question.

“President Trump has called the special counsel’s investigation a ‘witch hunt’ and said he’s been subjected to more investigations than previous presidents because of politics,” the poll question asks. “Do you agree?”

Just more than 50 percent answered yes. Almost 47 percent answered no, and a slim minority remained undecided or refused to answer the question.

Paleologos noted that the small group of holdouts may have been reacting to the compound nature of the question.

Roughly 49 percent agreed with the statement: “Democrats [are] doing the right thing pursuing investigation aggressive,” while only 46 percent believed the party was going “too far” with their probes.

Seeing no contradiction between this finding and the marquee “witch hunt” results, Paleologos said: “There could be independents and Republicans that don’t like Trump.”

The largest plurality of respondents cited conservative Fox News (27 percent) as their TV broadcaster of choice. CNN came a distant second at 15 percent, and the other named networks lagged in the single digits.

Suffolk’s survey falls in the wake of a New Yorker investigation “The Making of the Fox News White House,” which questioned whether the conservative network effectively became a pro-Trump propaganda organ. The investigation reported that Trump personally leaned on his then-cabinet member Gary Cohn to initiate antitrust action against Fox’s competitor and that Fox spiked its scoop about the Stormy Daniels hush-money scandal because “Rupert wants Donald Trump to win.”

With the Democrats declining to let Fox host their debates, the network hired the party’s former chair Donna Brazile on Monday to rebuild trust across the aisle.

Paleologos said that the reason that Fox viewers dominate the poll results is simple: “There’s no competition.”

“The Fox News finding is no different from the top 20 national polls that we’ve done,” he said.

Consistently well-rated, Suffolk University scored a B+ in the pollster rankings on FiveThirtyEight.

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