Are we experiencing Russia fatigue? These less-than-remarkable reactions to Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit performance in two polls seem surprising, given the near-unanimous condemnation he’s received for it. For that, the White House can largely thank a loyal Republican base, but that’s not all good news either.
First, CBS’ partner SSRS conducted a phone survey on Tuesday and Wednesday, at the zenith of the outrage over Donald Trump’s remarks in the post-summit presser, and for the most part while Trump stood by those remarks. Overall, Trump only scored a 32/55 approval for his handling of the summit, but the partisan divide was its most remarkable feature:
Even with the partisan split, Trump only gets 68% of Republicans to support his handling of Helsinki. That may be due to the fact that a majority of Republicans believe that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and didn’t find his prevarications during the presser very palatable:
Republicans are still much less likely to accept those conclusions — perhaps especially when their preferred president is under fire over them — but more than half do. That should be a warning shot across the White House bow that further denials and attempts to cast doubt on those conclusions could alienate some of the voters they need to get through the midterms and the 2020 cycle.
But still, a 32/55 disapproval isn’t that far out of the norm for anything connected to Donald Trump. The CBS poll also shows a narrow split on how voters want the US to address Russia, with sanctions barely edging out dialogue and cooperation 48/41. Even among Democrats, it’s 37/50, which means that Trump’s attempts at the latter in Helsinki represent a mainstream choice among US voters. Imagine what this would have looked like if Trump had taken a tough line on Putin in the post-summit presser.
Likewise, an Axios/Survey Monkey poll shows roughly similar contours:
The overall approval rating on the presser (40/58) isn’t just similar to the CBS poll, it’s also a close match for Trump’s overall approval rating in the Axios survey (45/52). The outrage among people outside the media bubble is either muted or very limited to certain demographics.
And in one more indicator that this may be more of a Beltway tempest, Russian interference is only considered a serious issue 50/47, although among independents it does climb to 57/43. That doesn’t not make ongoing Russian attempts to wreak havoc in the US an actually serious issue, but it may mean that this debate has dragged out so long that voters are having a tougher time taking it seriously now, even when Trump conducts a faceplant in Helsinki on it.