Despite GOP Critics, Poll Finds Most Americans Support FBI

FILE – In this May 3, 2017 file photo, then-FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Comey was later fired by President Donald Trump amid a federal investigation into connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

(CN) – While Republicans’ views of the FBI have slipped over the past year, a majority of Americans still hold favorable opinions of federal agencies, the Pew Research Center reported Wednesday, including the bureau at the center of the Russia investigation.

In a survey of just over 1,000 adults between Feb. 7-11, Pew researchers found that most Americans held positive views of several federal agencies, including the United States Postal Service, FBI, CIA, EPA and Department of Education.

The USPS took the top spot with 88 percent favorability among survey respondents, while the Department of Education came in last with 53 percent favorability and a 42-percent unfavorability rating.

However, one of the most divisive agencies in the last year has been the FBI, which has come under fire from Republican lawmakers, conservative pundits and the White House during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

President Donald Trump has criticized multiple FBI officials during his first year in office, including former FBI Director James Comey, recently retired Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and agent Peter Strzok.

Trump fired Comey last year amid the bureau’s probe into his campaign’s possible ties with Russia, and told NBC’s Lester Holt that he did so based on “this Russia thing.”

Recently, the president has been particularly focused on Strzok, who was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team after a series of leaked text messages between Strzok and his lover, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, allegedly showed anti-Trump sentiments.

These allegations were bolstered by a significant amount of coverage from conservative pundits, including Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, who have since called for a “purge” of FBI agents and officials who do not view the president favorably.

Conservatives’ recent criticism of the bureau was reflected in this month’s Pew survey. Fifty-five percent of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents said they have a favorable opinion of the FBI, compared to 78 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who said the same.

Those numbers reflect a 10 percent drop among Republicans since last year and a 10 percent increase among Democrats since 2010.

Among all respondents, 66 percent of Americans have a positive view of the FBI compared to 23 percent who hold unfavorable opinions.

Democratic voters’ increase in support of the FBI may be a sign that they are responding positively to blowback from Democratic lawmakers over conservatives’ recent attacks on the bureau.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., criticized Trump ally Representative Devin Nunes, R-Calif., for recently releasing a hotly disputed memo accusing the FBI of leaving out critical information when it applied for a warrant to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“As a prosecutor, I saw plenty of defense teams try to put the government on trial,” Blumenthal said in a tweet Sunday. “Now, the nation sees Trump’s Capitol Hill lackeys using this well-worn tactic against the FBI/DOJ – with bogus memos and public attacks.”

Shortly after Representative Nunes’ memo was released, FBI Director Christopher Wray sent a rallying statement to his agents and reasserted that the bureau will “stay laser-focused on doing great work, even when it is not easy, because we believe in the FBI.”

“Remember: keep calm and tackle hard,” Wray added in the Feb. 2 statement.

Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., also criticized the GOP for its stance against the FBI and Justice Department.

“One year after our nation’s intelligence agencies unanimously concluded that Russia attacked our democracy, House Republicans are going after the FBI and Department of Justice instead,” Senator Warner said in a Jan. 30 tweet.

Ironically, Republican respondents’ favorability ratings for the Justice Department have jumped 10 points from last year to 57 percent, according to the Pew report, while Democratic respondents’ favorability of the DOJ fell from 74 to 60 percent in the past year.

Respondents from both parties showed little change in their opinion of the CIA. Sixty-four percent of Americans overall have a positive view of that agency, according to Pew.

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