Three possible explanations for this, one good-ish, one middling, and one bad.
1. The good(-ish): It’s early yet! We still haven’t seen extensive passages from Mueller’s own report, just Barr’s summary of it. Suspicions abound on the left that Trump and his AG are whitewashing a far more damning narrative compiled by Mueller than the summary would suggest. If Mueller’s own words give Trump a clean bill of health on collusion, the numbers will start to move in Trump’s favor. In fact, dig into NBC’s poll and you’ll see that just 39 percent say they’ve heard “a lot” about Mueller’s conclusions. Opinions are still forming. Be patient.
2. The middling: Lefties are quietly crushed by the collusion finding and so now they’ve moved all their chips onto the fact that Mueller refused to exonerate Trump on obstruction. The report is a black box on that point for the moment. If it turns out that the most damning evidence in the obstruction case is stuff we already know about, like Trump firing Comey, then some Democrats will grudgingly relent and the numbers on whether Mueller has cleared Trump of wrongdoing will bulge. If, on the other hand, there’s damning stuff in there that we don’t yet know about, like attempted witness tampering, then Trump has a problem.
3. The bad: Maybe these numbers are what they are because opinions of Trump and Russiagate are completely ossified by partisanship, incapable of bending no matter what the findings are. Mueller could go on TV and do an interpretive dance as a tribute to Trump’s innocence and no one’s view of this, or of POTUS, would change. “If opinions of him are so hard-boiled that not even getting a pass on conspiracy from Mueller can shake them,” I wrote last week, “then maybe 45 percent [job approval] really is his ceiling, with nowhere to go before next year but down.” That would be very bad news for him.
Anyway, from NBC:
Independents are a stubborn lot. Maybe it’s just a fluke poll, though? If you’re thinking maybe it’s just a fluke poll, note that WaPo conducted its own survey about Trump and Russiagate a few days ago. Results:
Among Democrats, who long expressed faith in Mueller during the inquiry, 53 percent now say they are disappointed with its conclusions. And while most still approve of Mueller’s efforts, more than 6 in 10 Democrats do not accept his finding on whether Trump conspired with Russia…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the end of the investigation has done little to shake partisans’ convictions about Trump’s guilt or innocence. A 76 percent majority of Democrats thinks Trump committed serious wrongdoing related to Russian election interference or the investigation that followed, including nearly two-thirds who say he committed a crime. Separately, 8 in 10 Democrats think Trump tried to hinder the Russia investigation and committed obstruction of justice in the process.
So there’s a fourth possible explanation, I guess: Democrats have heard about Mueller’s conclusions, believe Barr *did* summarize them accurately, and … just refuse to accept them. Whether that’s because they think Mueller is compromised somehow, fundamentally stupid/sloppy as an investigator, or “tricked” by Trump, they’ve got their Russiagate story and they’re sticking to it. Call that the “O.J. view” of Trump’s innocence — just because the jury votes not guilty doesn’t mean you need to agree.
What about Trump’s job approval, though? That was the key metric I cited in my post last week. Even if hardcore anti-Trumpers are immovable in their negative views of him, it might be that watching the Russiagate cloud over him lift has softened the views of some less committed Trump-haters, which would improve his chances of reelection. He’s gotta get some bounce from the good news on collusion in Mueller’s report, no? Answer: Yep, he has gotten a bounce — although it’s a modest one and may be fading already. The day before Barr’s summary was released, FiveThirtyEight’s poll average had Trump at 41.9 percent. Today he’s 0.3 points higher, at 42.2 percent. RCP’s poll average had him at 42.8 the day before Barr issued his summary and saw him rise to 44.0 in the days following, although today he’s dipped back down to 43.7.
Weirdest of all, the NBC poll that’s the subject of this post found Trump losing three points in approval over the span of a month, from 46 percent in February to 43 percent now. That’s within the margin of error, so maybe it’s just statistical noise. But it’s also possible that the public’s already moved on to subjects like health care, with anxiety rising as Trump cheerleads for the destruction of ObamaCare. We’ll check in on this again next week.
In lieu of an exit question, enjoy a four-star Russiagate supercut from the Free Beacon’s video wizard, David Rutz.