Views on the meeting are sharply divided by party
Concern for contacts between Trump's campaign and suspected Russian operatives is down
Almost 6 in 10 Americans say President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort should not have taken a meeting last summer with a Russian lawyer who they thought would be providing negative information about Hillary Clinton, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
The public is split along party lines on this question, however, with Democrats overwhelmingly saying the group shouldn’t have taken the meeting (83% say so), which took place at Trump Tower in New York City in June 2016, while Republicans, though less unified, tilt the opposite way (48% say they should have taken the meeting, 36% that they should not have done so). Independents lean against the move by more than 2-to-1, with 55% saying the group shouldn’t have taken the meeting and 22% saying they should have.
Interviewing for the survey began July 14, a few days after Trump Jr. tweeted images of an email chain showing him setting up the meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who he was told could “provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary (Clinton) and her dealings with Russia.” As the survey was being conducted, news reports about other meeting participants who had ties to Trump and his family emerged.
Views on whether these members of Trump’s family and campaign ought to have met with the Russian lawyer vary based on how concerned Americans are about Trump campaign contacts with Russians overall. Those who say they are concerned about those contacts broadly say the group shouldn’t have taken the meeting (81%), but those who are less concerned split about evenly (39% in that group say they should have taken the meeting, 36% say they should not have, and almost a quarter say they are unsure).
Those general concerns about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians are also sharply divided by party. Overall, about half say they are very or somewhat concerned about reports that people associated with Trump’s campaign had contact with suspected Russian operatives during last year’s campaign. Among Democrats, nearly 8 in 10 are deeply concerned, while among Republicans, just 20% share that view. A majority of Republicans, 55%, say they are not concerned at all about those reports.
Beyond partisan divisions, concern about these meetings is higher among those who hold college degrees (57% concerned) than among those without four-year degrees (45% concerned), among younger Americans (56% under age 35 say they are concerned) and among women (54% concerned).
Overall concern about these contacts has dipped somewhat since a CNN/ORC poll in early March (down six percentage points), with the decrease coming largely among Democrats and independents (down 11 points in each group). That poll was conducted as news about possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government was beginning to emerge. It was about two weeks after retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was dismissed as national security adviser for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about whether he had discussed US sanctions with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak and shortly after news broke that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had met with the Russian ambassador in summer 2016 and had not disclosed that meeting during his Senate confirmation hearings.
The share of Americans who say they are closely following news about Russia’s attempts to influence the US presidential election last year has also declined some since the start of Trump’s presidency (from 77% following at least somewhat closely in January, just before the inauguration, to 59% now).
Interviewing for the CNN poll conducted by SSRS was completed July 14-18 among a random national sample of 1,019 adults. The survey included 405 respondents reached on landline telephones and 614 reached on cellphones. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.