Voters are split on President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, a controversy that has roiled Washington but is yet to dent the nation’s partisan divide, a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows.
Just over a third of voters, 35 percent, say Trump was right to remove Comey as FBI director this week, the poll shows. But roughly the same share, 33 percent, say Trump should have allowed Comey to continue as FBI director. Another 32 percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion.
Republican voters mostly back Trump’s decision: 62 percent say he was right to fire Comey, while only 10 percent think Comey should have stayed on.
Democrats, by contrast, largely oppose Trump’s decision. The majority, 58 percent, say Trump should have let Comey stay on, but 16 percent think Trump was right to remove Comey. The Justice Department has cited Comey’s treatment of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as part of the rationale behind Comey’s dismissal.
Independents are evenly divided: 30 percent think Trump made the right decision, 28 percent say Comey should have stayed and 42 percent are undecided.
The poll suggests voters are only slightly moved by the suggestion that Trump should not have fired Comey while the bureau is investigating connections between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia’s attempts to influence the results of the election.
Overall, 37 percent of voters describe Trump’s decision to remove Comey as “appropriate,” and 34 percent describe it as “inappropriate.” (The difference between these two figures is not statistically significant.) Nearly three-in-10 voters, 29 percent, have no opinion.
Asked whether Trump’s decision was appropriate in light of the investigation into his campaign, however, the percentage who say it was appropriate does not change measurably, ticking down a single point to 36 percent. But the percentage who say it was inappropriate rises 7 percentage points, to 41 percent.
The poll does find greater support for dismissing Comey in light of the former FBI director’s comments at a Senate committee hearing last week that overstated former Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s practice of forwarding Clinton’s emails to her husband, disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). Told that Comey “misstated several details” about the Clinton investigation, 47 percent say Trump’s decision was appropriate, including 29 percent of Democrats. Just 28 percent say it is inappropriate in light of those misstatements.
Voters are divided on who should lead the investigation into Trump’s campaign and its connections to Russian actors, but there is general support for removing the probe from the political process. Just 22 percent say the new FBI director “should continue the investigation.” But 36 percent of voters want a special prosecutor to be appointed, and another 24 percent think “a bipartisan, independent commission created by Congress should handle the investigation.”
The White House and congressional GOP leadership have thus far deflected calls from Democrats and a few stray Republicans for an independent counsel or special, select congressional committee.
The poll surveyed 1,731 registered voters, beginning late Tuesday after the White House announced Comey’s firing and concluding on Thursday. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Morning Consult is a nonpartisan media and technology company that provides data-driven research and insights on politics, policy and business strategy.