Six in 10 think Trump knew last year that campaign associates met with suspected Russian operatives
Declining percentage see Russia investigation as an effort to discredit Trump's presidency
Two-thirds see Russian interference in the 2016 election as a crisis or major problem
Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at its lowest point in CNN’s polling as concerns about contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives have grown sharply in the wake of the first indictments from the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the US election.
Overall, just 36% say they approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, worse by one percentage point than Trump’s previous low of 37%, reached in October. Disapproval has also reached a new high at 58%, with nearly half (48%) saying they strongly disapprove of the way the President is handling his job.
More Americans than ever before express concern about contacts between suspected Russian operatives and Trump’s presidential campaign. Forty-four percent say they are “very concerned” about those reports, up from just 27% saying so in July, shortly after news broke about a meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump, Jr. Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer, among others.
The new poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday, following the announcement last week of indictments against Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and his associate, Rick Gates, as well as news that a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign had pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI after he lied about his interactions with foreign officials close to the Russian government.
Almost six in 10, 59%, say they think Trump himself knew last year that anyone associated with his campaign had contact with suspected Russian operatives, while only 35% think the then-GOP nominee did not know about those contacts. Fewer (39%) see last week’s legal actions as signs of a widespread effort within the campaign to coordinate with Russia; 44% say they represent an effort to coordinate that was limited to just a few people.
And with the investigation’s first charges, the poll also finds broader support for a full investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the election as well as a rising share who consider such meddling a crisis.
About two-thirds (64%) now say the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the US presidential election in 2016 is a serious matter that should be fully investigated, while just 32% see it as an effort to discredit Trump’s presidency. That figure is down from 38% saying so in August.
Just 34% approve of the way Trump is handling that investigation, 54% disapprove, though that represents an improvement since August, when 59% disapproved.
Trump responded to last week’s charges by taking to Twitter, writing that there was “NO COLLUSION,” urging the FBI and Justice Department to look in to the Democrats and Clinton campaign, and calling the investigation a “witch hunt.”
The percentage who say it’s a “crisis” for the United States if the Russian government did attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election now stands at 22%, our highest read on that measure, up from 16% seeing it as that serious in April. Overall, about two-thirds consider it a crisis or major problem. The US intelligence community has said Russia tried to influence the election.
There are sharp partisan divides on all things Russia, however. Republicans are far less likely than Democrats or independents to say:
- It’s a serious matter that should be fully investigated (28% among Republicans vs. 91% among Democrats and 63% among independents)
- They are concerned about contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives (91% among Democrats, 64% among independents and 34% among Republicans)
- They think that Trump knew about those contacts during the campaign (17% among Republicans, 61% among independents and 87% among Democrats)
Looking ahead to future elections, there is tepid confidence at best that government, technology firms or media are doing enough to prevent foreign countries from influencing future elections. Narrow majorities say they have confidence that their local elections officials (52%) or the federal government (51%) are doing enough to prevent foreign interference, but majorities lack confidence in tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google (59%), Donald Trump (59%) or media organizations (52%) to do enough to prevent such meddling.
The lack of confidence in tech companies crosses party lines, with majorities of Republicans (63%), independents (58%) and Democrats (57%) saying they have little or no confidence in Facebook, Twitter or Google to do enough to prevent interference from foreign countries, but views on Trump and the media are sharply split by party, with Republicans more apt to express confidence that Trump is doing enough (77%, vs. 11% of Democrats) and Democrats expressing greater confidence in media organizations (60% vs. 21% among Republicans).
Views on Congress’s work on this front are split – 49% are not confident, 46% are.
While this survey represents the lowest approval rating for Trump, he has a ways to go before reaching the lows of some other recent presidents. In CNN polling, that low-approval mark belongs to President George W. Bush, who hit 24% a couple of times in 2008. And in Gallup’s all-time trend, it’s President Harry Truman, who hit 22% approval in 1952. Richard Nixon was at at 24% just before he resigned. Bush bottomed out at 25% in their polling.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone November 2 to November 5 among a random national sample of 1,021 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.