A majority of voters say it was inappropriate for Donald Trump Jr. to accept an offer to meet with an attorney linked to the Russian government, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
More than half, 52 percent, say meeting with a Russian government attorney was inappropriate. Only 23 percent of registered voters say meeting with a Russian government attorney was appropriate. The remaining 25 percent have no opinion.
Republicans were less troubled by the meeting: a 44 percent plurality say the meeting was appropriate, while 24 percent say it was inappropriate. But Democrats overwhelmingly pan the meeting — four-in-five say it was inappropriate — and half of independent say it was inappropriate, with just 19 percent saying it was appropriate.
A subsequent question that told respondents that Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting because the attorney was purportedly offering incriminating evidence about Hillary Clinton yielded a higher percentage who thought it was appropriate: 28 percent. But that’s still well short of the 53 percent who say the meeting was inappropriate after being read that information.
The poll shows that voters aren’t yet buying President Donald Trump’s excuse for his eldest son: that meeting with a purported agent of an adversarial foreign government who has promised damaging information about a campaign opponent is just politics as usual.
In the survey — conducted last Thursday through Saturday — a combined 73 percent of registered voters say they have heard “a lot” or “some” about the younger Trump’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian attorney. The poll began two days after Trump Jr. disclosed written correspondence setting up the gathering, but before the full roster of attendees was disclosed to the public.
The president has defended his son and two campaign advisers, Jared Kushner, his son in law, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who also attended the meeting — arguing that such meetings are commonplace in the rough-and-tumble of presidential politics.
“I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent,” Trump said last week at a press conference in Paris, adding that it is “very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information.”
Trump reiterated that argument on Twitter earlier this week, posting: “Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That’s politics!”
But few voters agree, according to the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. Only 35 percent say most presidential campaigns would accept a meeting with a Russian government attorney promising damaging information about their opponent, while 41 percent believe most campaigns would decline that meeting. Twenty-four percent of voters don’t know or have no opinion.
The same party split is evident here: A 57-percent majority of Republican voters think most campaigns would take a meeting like that, but 65 percent of Democrats think campaigns would turn it down.
"President Trump and his surrogates have been making the case that Donald Jr.’s meeting was politics as usual, and Republican voters appear to agree," said Morning Consult Co-founder and Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. "Fifty-seven percent of GOP voters say that most campaigns would accept a meeting with a Russian government attorney offering incriminating information about an opponent."
There are also signs in the poll that the Russia scandal is wearing on Trump, even as his approval ratings — 44 percent approve, 51 percent disapprove in the new survey — remain steady, if underwater.
A majority of voters, 53 percent, think the Trump Jr. meeting should be part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. More voters say the president has been either “not too truthful” or “not truthful at all” (46 percent) than say he has been “very” or “somewhat” truthful (41 percent) when it comes to the Russia investigation.
Still, only 40 percent of voters think Congress should begin impeachment proceedings to remove Trump from office, the poll shows. A 46-percent plurality of voters think Congress shouldn’t move to impeach the president.
Those anti-impeachment voters are unlikely to be moved by more evidence against Trump and his associates. Among those voters who don’t want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings, 79 percent say they would feel the same way even if Mueller “concludes that members of the president’s campaign did coordinate with Russian government officials.” Only 12 percent of those who oppose impeachment would then support it if Mueller reached that conclusion.
The poll was also conducted prior to Senate Republicans’ breakdown this week in their efforts to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, but the survey showed slightly more voters disapprove of the effort (43 percent) than support it (41 percent). Over the past week, approval of the bill ticked up a point, but disapproval dropped by a significant, 4-point margin.
The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll surveyed 1,994 registered voters and has a margin of error of 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.