Majority Disapproves Of Trump’s Handling Of Russia In Wake Of Summit

Most Americans disapprove of the President's handling of our relationship with Russia, and foreign policy more generally, in the wake of the Helsinki Summit. That's not having much of an impact on his overall job approval, though.

A new poll from ABC News and The Washington Post shows the President getting largely negative reviews for his summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin:

By wide margins, Americans give President Trump negative marks for his conduct during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week and for his casting doubt on U.S. intelligence conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

But public reaction nationally appears more muted than in Washington where Trump faced withering bipartisan criticism for appearing to side with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies at a Monday news conference in Helsinki. Most Americans do not feel Trump went “too far” in supporting Putin, and while more Americans say U.S. leadership has gotten weaker than stronger under Trump, his ratings on this question are slightly improved from last fall.

The findings indicate that while Trump was judged critically for his summit performance, the event has not at this time proved to be a significant turning point in his presidency, despite the sharp criticism he received in the hours and days after the meeting and the multiple efforts by White House officials and the president to clarify his remarks in Helsinki. The poll results suggest that overall attitudes toward the president have hardened on both sides and that major events like Helsinki produce only modest changes in his overall standing, if any.

The Post-ABC poll conducted Wednesday through Friday finds that overall, 33 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of his meeting with Putin while 50 percent disapprove. A sizable 18 percent say they have no opinion. A slightly larger 56 percent disapprove of Trump expressing doubts about U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. On both questions, those who say they “strongly disapprove” of Trump’s performance outnumber those who say they “strongly approve” by better than 2 to 1.

Trump’s ratings for handling the summit represent a weakened moment for him, but they are not markedly worse than ratings of his presidency overall in other recent polls. A Washington Post-Schar School poll earlier this month, for instance, found 43 percent approved of Trump’s job performance while 55 percent disapproved, with strong disapproval outpacing strong approval by roughly 2 to 1.

The new Post-ABC poll finds 40 percent saying Trump went “too far” in supporting Putin, a criticism that was voiced by both Democrats and Republicans in Washington over the past week.

However, almost as many — 35 percent — say Trump handled Putin “about right,” while another 15 percent say he did not go far enough to support Putin. The rest have no opinion. Democrats, liberals and college graduates are the only groups in the poll among whom a majority say Trump went too far in supporting Putin.

Not surprisingly, there are marked differences in the evaluation of Trump’s summit performance based on the partisan preferences of the respondents. Among Democrats, for example, 83% of those surveyed disapproved of the President’s handling of the summit, while 66% of Republicans said they approved of the way the President handled himself at the meeting. Among self-identified Independents, meanwhile, the responses were somewhat more muted with 46% disapproving of Trump’s handling of the meeting and 33% approving. On the broader issue of Trump’s attacks on the intelligence agencies and the conclusions they’ve reached about Russian interference 56% of respondents disapprove of the manner in which the President has engaged in these attacks, while just 29% said they approve. Among Democrats, 78% disapprove of the President’s attacks on the intelligence agencies while 15% approve. Among Republicans support for the President is lower than one might have expected, with 51% approving of the President’s attacks and 31% disapproving. Among Independents, meanwhile, 59% disapprove of the President’s attacks on the intelligence agencies while 29% approve. Taking all these numbers together, the most significant fact seems to be that while Republicans overwhelmingly support the President’s job performance the support for his position vis a vis Russia and the Russia investigation is muted at best.

On a broader question dealing with American leadership in the world, the results are similarly bad for the President:

  • Among all adults, 47% of respondents say that American leadership in the world has gotten weaker under Trump, while 30% say it has gotten stronger, and 20% say it has remained the same;
  • Among registered voters, 53% say that American leadership has gotten weaker, while 31% say it had gotten stronger, and 14% say it has remained the same;
  • Among Democrats, 80% say that American leadership has gotten weaker, 6% say it has gotten stronger, and 12% say it had remained the same;
  • Among Republicans, 74% say that American leadership has gotten stronger, 9% say it has gotten weaker, and 17% say it has remained the same; and,
  • Among Independents, 47% say that American leadership has gotten weaker, 22% say it has gotten stronger, and 26% say it has remained the same.

Another poll from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal that was taken both before and after the Helsinki Summit provides some similar numbers:

In the poll — half of which was conducted before and the day of Trump’s July 16 news conference in Helsinki with Putin, the other half afterward — just 26 percent approve of the president’s handling of the relationship between the United States and Russia. Fifty-one percent disapprove.

Not surprisingly, Republicans are more supportive of Trump’s handling of Russia (53 percent of them approve) than Democrats (6 percent) and even Independents (14 percent) are.

“I think he is trying to build relations with Russia so that we do not have a war,” said Republican respondent Frank Garrido of Florida when asked to describe his reaction to Trump’s meetings with NATO allies and Russia’s Putin. “It is better to talk to [Putin] than to not. I think the Democrats are just maniacs.”

IndependentDeborah Linzy of Arkansas had a counter view, saying, “I think [Trump] was — for lack of a better word — disrespectful to the NATO allies and much too friendly with Putin. I do not consider Russia an ally.”


Also what hasn’t budged in the NBC/WSJ poll are general attitudes about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election — even after Mueller’s July 13 indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officials.

A plurality of voters — 46 percent — believe Mueller’s investigation should continue, versus 38 percent who think it should come to an end. Those numbers are essentially unchanged from last month, with most Democrats wanting it to continue, and with most Republicans preferring it to end.

But other Russia-related numbers have moved: 65 percent of voters believe the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election (up 12 points from a year ago); 41 percent say the interference affected the election’s outcome (up 8 points from a year ago); and 30 percent think Democrat Hillary Clinton would have won without the interference (up 6 points from last year).

Twenty-eight percent of all voters view Mueller positively, including 49 percent of Democrats but just 9 percent of Republicans.

That’s compared with 22 percent of all voters who see Mueller in a negative light, including 38 percent of Republicans but only 9 percent of Democrats.

Both of these polls were taken in the immediate aftermath of the Helsinki debacle and therefore arguably do not include a full evaluation by the public of just what kind of the impact the events of last week will have on public perception of the President’s handling of our relationship with our European allies, Russia, or foreign policy in general. Based on these numbers, though, it seems clear that the reviews are likely to be quite negative indeed. In that respect, of course, the President has nobody to blame but himself. He could have ensured that things turned out differently if he had stood up to Putin at the press conference last week, and if he had done something more than offer the ham-handed and utterly absurd explanation for his failure to do so other than what he has offered. For whatever reason, of course, he didn’t do so and he now finds himself in the predicament that he’s in, which includes actions that strengthen the impression that, for some reason, he is either unwilling or unable to stand up for his country against Russia even at the same time that he does everything that he can to ruin our relationships with long-standing allies as well as our standing in the world.

At the same time that we’re seeing these bad numbers from on the foreign policy side of Trump’s job, it’s worth noting that these events don’t seem to be having an impact on Trump’s overall job approval, at least not yet. For example, the same NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that gave such bad news for Trump regarding Russia also shows that his overall job approval is at 45% while disapproval is at 52%. Other current job approval polls are in roughly the same territory, and the RealClearPolitics average puts Trump’s job approval at 43.6% while his disapproval stands at 52.4% for a deficit of -8.8 points. This is at or near the best that Trump has polled since the early days of his Administration. One of the reasons for the President’s stronger numbers appears to be the state of the economy, something that can be seen in the fact that the RealClearPolitics average for job approval on the economy puts the President’s numbers at 50.7% and his disapproval at 41.9%, for a net positive of +8.8 points. By contrast, his approval when it comes to foreign policy stands at 41.7% approval and 51.0%, for a deficit of -9.3 points. Additionally, more detailed polling shows that Trump is likely being helped by the fact that he has overwhelming support from Republicans even while Democrats overwhelmingly disapprove and Independents disapprove of the President’s job performance by a margin of 36.5% approve to 54.7% disapprove. All of this suggests that Trump is likely to stay within the job approval range that he has been in for the better part of the past eighteen months as long as the economy remains in good shape and Republicans continue to rally to his side. What this means for the midterm elections and beyond remains to be seen.

FILED UNDER: National Security, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Must-read — Christine Todd-Whitman agrees.

    …his behavior warrants a fresh evaluation of whether the president can be trusted with the future of the United States.

    …what does this man have to say or do for his supporters to finally see that his actions are detrimental to the country?
    CTW was the Gov. of NJ, first Republican woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election in the United States, the first Republican woman to be reelected governor, and served as the Administrator of the EPA under Bush 43. Not exactly a GOP lightweight.

  2. CSK says:

    If you believe that Trump did a good job in Helsinki, you’re either delusional, or you’re so deeply committed to Trump that you’re incapable of admitting that you know he’s an incompetent buffoon.

  3. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Good piece. Unfortunately, when an East Coast blueblood WASP such as Christie Whitman criticizes Trump, his drooling fan club worships him all the more. She’s an “elite,” you know, not a real Murkan.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    She’s an “elite,” you know

    Yup…and the founders were all pretty elite in their day.
    I’m pretty sure that I don’t have to convince anyone here of my liberal leanings…and I’d vote for her.

  5. Kylopod says:

    Now contrast that with the relatively more well-received Korea summit. What was the difference? The biggest difference is in how the mainstream media reacted.

    With Korea, the MSM gave Trump relatively good marks–their overall attitude was one of skepticism but a willingness to give Trump “credit” for making “progress” with the NK situation. Meanwhile, Trump’s cheerleaders at Fox all amplified the idea that it was the bestest, most awesomest deal ever that deserved the Nobel Prize, and so on.

    But with Russia, the MSM’s attitude was overwhelmingly negative–and even certain corners of Fox began expressing doubts about it.

    Anyone who thinks most of the public is independently making up their minds, based on a careful assessment of the facts, is fooling themselves. It’s the media (I mean all media, both partisan and “neutral”) that shapes people’s perceptions. If the Korea summit had been covered with the same level of skepticism as the Russia one, we’d be looking at more or less the same negative poll numbers.

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    With Korea, the MSM gave Trump relatively good marks–their overall attitude was one of skepticism but a willingness to give Trump “credit” for making “progress” with the NK situation.

    I would only argue that the MSM saw, after the NoKo summit, that it was all smoke and mirrors…and by Helsinki they had seen Kim actually working to advance his nuclear production capabilities.
    I’m not defending the MSM…I think the fourth estate has been failing us for some time. If they had been doing their job we might never have had Bush 43, and certainly would not have had Iraq, the Bush Tax Cuts, Medicare Part D, Death Panels, Benghazi, and a host of other shitty things that have damaged this nation.
    I just think your analysis looks at two distinct events and not the period in between. A minor quibble.

  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Security clearances will now depend on your politics.
    SHS just said that Dennison wants to take away the security clearances of former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
    All have been critical of the fat orange submissive poodle that occupies the Oval Office.

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Of course Comey and McCabe lost their clearances when they were fired. Figures the WH wouldn’t know that.

  9. Kylopod says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: The MSM may have ultimately realized that Kim’s “deal” was all smoke and mirrors, but only after it had largely faded from the headlines. That’s why it was a net positive for Trump politically.

    Unlike some liberals, I don’t believe that the MSM is actively or deliberately anti-Democrat. I think their major problems are that they’re extremely superficial and prone to groupthink, and their #1 concern is ratings. So they cover everything as a spectator sport. Sometimes this happens to end up benefiting Republicans, other times it doesn’t. But it makes them very vulnerable to the kind of distraction and sensationalism that Trump has built his whole career around. It’s how he managed to win the Republican nomination in the first place. I don’t think they love Trump exactly; they view him as a sideshow attraction to gawk at. But they’re drawn toward his antics like moths to a flame, and it makes them lose sight of the big picture.

  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I don’t believe that the MSM is actively or deliberately anti-Democrat. I think their major problems are that they’re extremely superficial and prone to groupthink


    Sometimes this happens to end up benefiting Republicans, other times it doesn’t.

    Given the mendacity of Republicans it will inevitably benefit them more.

  11. Kathy says:

    Russia is a complicated matter.

    Because it’s the other major nuclear power, and can exert influence in Europe, it is a concern for NATO and the US. Because it can also exert influence in the Middle East, it is both a concern and an occasional partner,mor at least a nation that one can oppose or work with.

    The bottom line is that it’s not possible to cut Russia off with sanctions, or make a pariah state, no matter how badly it abuses civil liberties, or even when it seizes territory from other countries.

    This needs to be handled with nuance and care. One thing that won’t help is to fawn over Putin and render him honors like summit meetings, state visits, etc.

    In time perhaps Russia will join the international order (if Trump doesn’t kill it off), or a second cold war will be necessary.

    and much the same goes for China as well, with the added complication that it has a much bigger economy.

    I don’t know if Obama and his team were the most capable people to work these issues out (probably not), but I know they tried. I do know Trump is about the worst person possible. I don’t take his team into account because he doesn’t seem to, either.

  12. Gustopher says:

    If Trump is going to ignore the Russian interference in our elections (which I disapprove of, both the interference and the ignoring), then I fully applaud him for being entirely transparent about it. No one, from his critics domestically to our allies abroad, have any doubt about where he stands.

    Obama claimed he was going to run the most transparent administration in history, but he has nothing on Trump. For instance, we have no idea what insane ramblings Obama had bubbling up inside him in the wee hours of the morning.