Americans’ first reactions to the news that roiled Washington on Monday ― the indictments of two key figures in Donald Trump’s presidential bid and the announcement of a guilty plea by an adviser to the campaign ― are largely split between condemnation and confusion, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey shows.
Trump’s opponents point to the men as proof of a pattern of wrongdoing, while the president’s supporters are largely reserving judgment.
The revelations, meanwhile, have done little to change opinions about the broader issues surrounding the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia.
Americans say, 48 percent to 9 percent, that the two indicted men ― Paul Manafort and Rick Gates ― did something wrong, with another 43 percent unsure. Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and Gates, who among other duties helped organize the 2016 Republican National Convention, were both charged with tax fraud and money laundering.
By 46 percent to 7 percent, the public also says that campaign adviser George Papadopoulos did something wrong, with 47 percent uncertain. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.
Of those who think the men did something wrong, 72 percent see Manafort and Gates’ alleged activities as part of a larger pattern of wrongdoing in the Trump campaign, with 69 percent saying the same of Papadopoulos’ actions.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, gets generally positive marks for his work, although many remain uncertain: 39 percent approve, 27 percent disapprove, and slightly more than a third are not sure.
Voters who supported Hillary Clinton in last year’s election overwhelmingly see the indictments and guilty plea as signs of a broader problem in the Trump administration. More than 80 percent of these voters think Manafort and Gates did something wrong, and 79 percent say the same of Papadopoulos. In both cases, the vast majority of those who perceive wrongdoing say that it reflects a broader pattern within Trump’s campaign.
Their suspicion, however, isn’t met with equal defensive zeal from their political opponents.
In the past, a majority of Trump voters defended Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting during the campaign with a Kremlin-linked lawyer as appropriate, supported the firing of FBI Director James Comey, shrugged off the idea that he had been pressured to drop his investigation into a Trump adviser, and remained unbothered by allegations that the president revealed classified information to Russian officials.
But while few Trump voters are ready to outright condemn Manafort, Gates or Papadopoulos, even fewer are willing to exculpate them. Just shy of a third of these voters think Manafort and Gates did something wrong, with just 13 percent saying they did not, and 54 percent unsure. The figures for Papadopoulos are similar ― 34 percent say he did something wrong, a tenth that he didn’t, and 57 percent say they don’t know. Among those Trump voters who say the three men did something wrong, very few see it reflecting badly on Trump’s overall campaign.
Monday’s developments seem to have made less of a splash outside Washington. Sixty percent of Americans say they’ve heard little or nothing in the news recently about the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia. Fewer than 3 in 10 say they followed the news about Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos very closely, with slightly over half saying they’d paid even somewhat close attention.
Opinions of the broader Russia investigation, meanwhile, have remained almost stagnant during the year. The biggest spike in concern, which followed Comey’s firing in May, seems largely to have ebbed.
From March to October, the share of Americans who consider the Russia story a legitimate issue has fluctuated between 42 percent and 50 percent (it currently stands at 45 percent), and the share who consider it illegitimate between 28 percent and 32 percent (it’s now at that latter figure).
Just over half of the public currently considers the administration’s relationship with Russia at least a somewhat serious problem, also similar to the share who said that in previous surveys.
These views, too, are largely stratified along political lines. While 86 percent of Clinton voters consider the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia to be a legitimate issue, 73 percent of Trump voters say it is not. A near-universal 92 percent of Clinton voters, but just 14 percent of Trump voters, consider that relationship to be a somewhat or very serious problem.
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:
MORE OF THE LATEST POLLING NEWS:
REPUBLICANS THINK TRUMP’S GOP CRITICS ARE HURTING THE PARTY ― HuffPost: “Most Republicans think it doesn’t help their party when GOP congressional leaders attempt to rein in the president, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds….According to the poll, 60 percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward supporting the Republican Party say it’s bad for the party when GOP members of Congress openly criticize Trump when they disagree with him. A 55 percent majority, meanwhile, say it’s a good thing for the GOP that some Republicans critical of Trump aren’t running for re-election….Most Republicans and Republican leaners ― 56 percent ― say they consider themselves supporters of both Trump and the GOP, with 18 percent saying they support only Trump and 16 percent saying they support only the party. Trump voters’ responses are notably distinct.” [HuffPost]
WHAT THE POLLS SHOW IN VIRGINIA ― Two recent surveys of Tuesday’s gubernatorial race in Virginia came up with wildly disparate results, with one showing Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam leading by 17 percentage points and the other finding him 8 points behind Ed Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. In between those outlying numbers, most show Northam with a modest edge.
A closer look at the methodology ― Steven Shepard: “Not all surveys are conducted the same way, with variations in how questions are asked accounting for the large range of possible results in Virginia. For decades, pollsters randomly dialed phone numbers to achieve probability sampling: the principle that every person has an equal chance of being selected to participate in the survey. As state election authorities and political parties became more sophisticated, however, campaign polling consultants began to call only those on the voter rolls — and, later, only those voters who regularly participated in elections. In recent years, more public pollsters have embraced this private technique. Now, with a week until Virginians go to the polls — and with pollsters eager to rebuild their standing after mistaken predictions in the presidential election last year — the majority of public surveys in the governor’s race are conducted this way. The public polling conducted using lists of registered voters, a method that proponents say is much more consistent, suggests Northam is the slight favorite.” [Politico]
Why the race doesn’t make a great midterm barometer ― Harry Enten: “The best way to see that this race is not necessarily a reliable barometer for the rest of the country is to compare the result in past Virginia gubernatorial elections with the national House vote in the following midterm….The average difference between Democrats’ over- or underperformance in Virginia and the following national House vote has been 7 percentage points. That’s a pretty big miss — and just a few points could make or break the Democrats’ shot at a House majority…. In the 2016 elections, there was barely any relationship between the outcome in the 12 gubernatorial elections and the presidential vote in those states.” 
WHAT THE POLLING AVERAGES SAY AS OF WEDNESDAY MORNING:
Trump job approval among all Americans: 39% approve, 58% disapprove
Trump job approval among Democrats: 9% approve, 89% disapprove
Trump job approval among Republicans: 81% approve, 17% disapprove
Trump job approval among independents: 34% approve, 57% disapprove
Generic House: 42% Democratic candidate, 35% Republican candidate
Obamacare favorability: 49% favor, 41% oppose
‘OUTLIERS’ - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-Pew Research’s latest political typology report finds deep divides on both the left and the right. [Pew]
-Democrats have decided that they like George W. Bush again. [HuffPost]
-Sen. Bob Corker’s numbers plunged after the Tennessee Republican took on Trump [WashPost]
-Nearly half of working women say they’ve experienced workplace harassment. [NBC]
-The libertarian Cato Institute has a new survey on “the state of free speech.” [Cato]
-Seth Masket asks if 2016 marked a political realignment in parts of the Midwest. [Vox]
-John Sides argues that Trump’s opposition to the national anthem protests by some NFL players has ended up making them more popular. [WashPost]
-David Byler asks why the Virginia gubernatorial race is as close as it is. [Weekly Standard]
-Frank Newport digs into what people mean by calling “government” the nation’s top problem. [Gallup]
-Way too many people were handing out “healthy snacks” on Halloween. [SSRS]
-America, you’re just wrong about this one. [@PPPPolls]
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Oct. 30-31 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.
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.