First things first: The theme song of the week is from the television show WKRP in Cincinnati.
Poll of the week: A new Fox News poll finds President Donald Trump with a 45% approval rating and a 51% disapproval rating among voters. Last month, the same pollster gave him a 46% approval rating and 51% disapproval rating among voters.
Fox News’ findings are in-line with the average poll, which showed the President’s ratings stayed steady after Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
What’s the point: Mueller’s nearly two-year long investigation has given the news industry more than a few headlines. People were arrested, charged with crimes and sentenced to jail. Through it all, Trump’s approval rating has almost always stayed somewhere between 40% and 45% among voters.
Does the release of the full redacted version of Mueller’s report on Thursday change that? It’s certainly plausible, but you’d be right to express skepticism.
Back in March, before Barr’s memo was published, just 7% of voters said in a Fox News poll that something in the Mueller report could have a “strong” chance of changing their minds about Trump. The lack of a shift in public opinion about Trump after Barr’s memo was released is very much in-line with that.
Voters said the Mueller report wouldn’t change their minds about Trump because the Russia investigation is simply put not a top issue for voters. In a CNN poll last month, zero respondents (0%) said it was their top issue for their 2020 vote when they were allowed to list any possible issue. This follows the 2018 midterm elections, in which fewer voters said the Russian investigation was an important issue to their vote than any of the issues listed in CNN’s poll.
The Mueller report also seems unlikely to upend the Democratic race for president. This month, Monmouth University asked likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa to state their top one or two issues in determining their vote for the Democratic nomination. Voters could list anything they wanted. Again, zero respondents (0%) said the Russia investigation was a top issue for them.
Voters seem most likely to rely on their partisan priors when reading the Mueller report. Currently, Trump sports a -10 point net approval rating (approval-disapproval) among voters in the average poll. That is, voters are 10 points more likely to take the anti-Trump position when it comes to whether they approve of the job he is doing as president.
Now look at how voters responded in a CNN poll when asked about the Barr memo of the Mueller report, in regards to Trump and his campaign. A majority, 55%, said that “the President and his campaign have not been exonerated, but collusion could not be proven.” This was, of course, pretty close to what the Barr memo actually stated. Despite what was written in the memo, 45% agreed with the statement that “the President and his campaign have been exonerated of any collusion with Russia.” This statement was far closer to Trump’s own spin of the memo.
In other words, Trump’s base seems pretty locked in, but so too does his opposition. Just like when it comes to his overall approval rating, voters were 10 points more likely to take the anti-Trump position on the Mueller report.
Obviously, this time could be different. Trump received a lot of bad press on Thursday because of the redacted Mueller report. Just keep in mind that the vast majority of voters have already stated on the record that they plan to vote a certain way (either for or against Trump), regardless of what the report’s findings.