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Few Trump-Russia Stories Have Changed Americans' Minds. Will This One?

Ariel Edwards-Levy

As news from the probes into Russian meddling in U.S. politics continues to accumulate, public opinion on President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia has remained basically the same. Americans have been more likely than not to be troubled by the way the White House deals with the country, but the concerns haven’t been growing.

If anything could change Americans’ minds, it might be expected to be the joint news conference Trump held Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Trump parried a question about holding Russia accountable for the poor relationship between the countries by insisting that the U.S. had been “foolish” and shared the blame for the acrimony. He also undercut the U.S. intelligence community by declining to back their assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Even before the meeting, most Americans disliked Putin, while saying they believed Trump took a more positive view of him. Recent Fox News polling found that roughly a third of Republican voters wanted Trump to be tougher on Russia. And following the Trump-Putin summit and news conference on Monday, a handful of GOP politicians and conservative pundits criticized Trump’s performance.

But this isn’t the first time that Trump has faced intra-party criticism for his handling of Russia, and in the past that hasn’t translated into major repercussions from his base. If what happened in Helsinki changes the U.S. public’s attitudes about Trump and his relationship with Russia, even temporarily, it’ll be one of only a few events among a constant stream of developments to have done so.

A series of congressional hearings last year didn’t do much to change opinions, HuffPost/YouGov polling found. Neither did an earlier meeting between Putin and Trump, or the release of emails confirming that Trump’s eldest son met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, or former Trump adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.

Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, followed by reports that the president disclosed highly classified information to Russian officials, did seem to move the needle, but the effect didn’t show much staying power.

A lot of Trump-era polling, including the president’s approval rating, has so far proven to be both notably stable and notably politicized. Even as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling has progressed, public opinion has remained largely, although not entirely, calcified along political llnes. The president’s opponents have mostly thought from Day One that it was a massive scandal. A majority, though not all, of his supporters remain generally unconvinced that it’s much of an issue. 

A new HuffPost/YouGov poll, conducted after Friday’s indictment of 12 Russian hackers but before Monday’s summit, finds more of the same. In polls dating back to last March, the share of the public who call Trump’s relationship with Russia a legitimate issue has vacillated between 42 percent and 50 percent. In the most recent, Americans say, 45 percent to 29 percent, that it’s a legitimate issue.

(HuffPost)

The 46 percent of Americans who currently consider the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia at least a somewhat serious problem is virtually identical to the 47 percent who said the same when HuffPost first asked the question in March 2017. The 32 percent who call it a “very” serious problem is identical(Recent polling from other outlets including Fox News and Monmouth University has found, if anything, a slight dip in support for the Russia probe.)

Even in the wake of Friday’s indictments, the 59 percent who say in the HuffPost/YouGov poll that it’s probably or definitely true that Russia hacked Democrats’ emails to help Trump’s election chances is basically unmoved from the 57 percent who said so last December.

Trump’s opponents are notably more vehement than his supporters in their focus on the Russia story. Contrast the 78 percent of Hillary Clinton voters who view the matter as a legitimate issue with the 59 percent of Trump voters who say outright that it’s not (22 percent of Trump voters also think it’s legitimate, while another 19 percent say they’re not sure). Seventy-one percent of Clinton voters consider Trump’s handling of Russia to present a very serious problem, compared to the 57 percent of Trump voters who don’t believe it’s a problem at all.

Non-voters, while perhaps the most likely to have malleable opinions on the subject, remain largely tuned out. Thirty-one percent of Americans who didn’t vote in 2016 say that they’ve heard nothing at all in the news recently about Trump and Russia, compared to just 6 percent of either Clinton or Trump voters who say the same.

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:

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the first name of Robert Mueller as James.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted July 13-14 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.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

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.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.