Poll: Public approval of Mueller is declining

A new poll conducted by CNN finds that only 41 percent of Americans approve of Robert Mueller’s handling of the Russia investigation. 39 percent disapprove. 1,012 people participated in the survey.

At the start of the year, 47 percent approved of Mueller’s handling and only 33 percent disapproved. As recently as early May, the split was 44-38 in Mueller’s favor.

An investigation is not a popularity contest. Nor does low approval of Mueller mean he’s not doing a good job.

However, this investigation is laden with political implications. Mueller will likely write a report. If public confidence in him is low, the report may be widely discounted.

Furthermore, Mueller, whose team is already clashing with Trump’s, may find himself in a fierce battle with the President. If public confidence in him is low, Trump may have the upper hand.

However, it’s important to note that confidence in Trump’s response to the Russia investigation is quite low. CNN found that only 28 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the investigation. 55 percent disapprove. This is roughly the same result CNN has obtained in polling on this matter throughout 2018.

Fortunately for Trump, his handling of the Russia investigation is only a single component — albeit an outsized one — of his public image. Unhappiness with him on this score can be at least partially, and probably largely, offset if the public is happy with the economy, with his handling of the war on terror, with his North Korea initiative, etc.

By contrast, Mueller’s handling of the Russia investigation is about all the public knows him by. It’s the overriding component of his public image. Right now, that image seems to be slipping.

At least it’s not yet underwater, though. The same cannot be said of James Comey. CNN found that only 28 percent of the public has a favorable view of him. 50 percent view him unfavorably, a percentage that’s likely to grow as his unusual and seemingly unethical behavior is investigated by the Department of Justice.