CAPS/Harris Poll on the Special Investigation, Trade and Foreign Policy


Tuesday, May 29, 2018 (All day)

May 29, 2018

The Special Counsel investigation, gun control, trade with China, and North Korea among the issues addressed in the May 2018 poll by the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard (CAPS) and The Harris Poll.

Political Climate

In the latest public policy survey by the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard (CAPS) and The Harris Poll, conducted May 21-22, among 1,347 registered voters, President Trump’s job approval remains steady at 45%. Like previous months of the poll, voters credit Trump in his handling of the economy (54% approve), fighting terrorism (53%), and simulating jobs (54%). But less than half of voters approve his handling of foreign affairs, administering the government, and immigration. In a generic ballot, Democrats currently have a 7-point lead over Republicans (44% vs. 37%).

State of the Special Counsel Investigation

Voters are split on whether any evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia has been found by the Special Investigator: 22% don’t know, and the rest are split; 38% say evidence has been found, and 40% say not found.

About equal numbers of voters say Mueller’s investigation should end now (30%), versus it continuing indefinitely (32%).

A majority of voters may want to see the investigation winding down – 57% say the special counsel should wind down investigations if no collusion has been uncovered; but voters are split 50-50 on whether the investigation should still pursue obstruction of justice charges. A majority (55%) believe Trump’s firing of Comey did, in fact, constitute obstruction of justice.

One thing a majority (64%) of voters agree on: Trump should testify in front of Mueller.

Who Investigates the Investigators?

Although a slight majority say there was enough evidence to justify the investigation into Trump’s campaign (52%), over half of voters (54%) believe that bias played a role in launching the investigations. And, while a majority say DOJ surveillance of the Trump campaign was “justified” (53%), if an informant was used to entrap a member of the Trump campaign, that crossed the line for most (59% say such activity would have been “wrong”).

Voters are keen on the risk that the investigation of President Trump may be biased. Two-thirds (66%) support a special counsel to investigate potential abuses at the FBI; 59% say it is appropriate for the President to call for the DOJ to investigate the nature of the FBI informant in the Trump campaign (64% would like to see Congress investigate). Nearly half (49%) of voters believe Obama officials set up the surveillance of the Trump campaign to begin with.

But checks and balances are still important. A majority (54%) do not believe it is within the power of the executive brand to fire the special counsel and a minority of voters favor firing Mueller (44%) and Rosenstein (42%).

Impeaching Trump

About two in five voters think President Trump should be impeached (39%), slightly fewer than those who say no action is necessary (42%).

Does the threat of impeachment from a Democrat-controlled House alter midterm votes? On the net, no – a third of voters say the potential to vote in an impeachable Democrat majority would make them more likely to vote Democrat (32%), another third say less likely (34%), and another third say it has no effect (34%).

China, Trade Deficits, and Tariffs

By a three-to-one margin (76% to 24%), voters believe the U.S. should take steps to correct the $375Bn trade deficit with China. And although a majority of voters (61%) support hefty tariffs on Chinese imports, they also would want President Trump to be pragmatic when negotiating with China, accepting smaller concessions even if they amount to smaller correction in the deficit (55%).

Seventy percent of American voters are concerned about the U.S. losing technological supremacy to China in the near future. When asked whether China should be punished for forcing U.S. technology companies to give up trade secrets in order to sell to Chinese consumer markets, 67% say that China should be punished. Further, most voters oppose the idea of ignoring such infringements in exchange for concessions in trade negotiations (63%).

Still, to many voters, tariffs can prove an effective negotiating tool. Although split 50-50 on their support for the steel and aluminum tariffs, 61% support the idea of using the threat of tariffs to negotiate better trading terms with other nations.

North Korea

Voters again increasingly approve of the way the U.S. is handling tensions with North Korea. Fifty-eight percent of voters approve, compared to 50% in February this year. By a three-to-one margin (74% to 26%), voters approve of the decision to meet with Kim Jong-Un in June, and 60% believe Trump deserves credit.

Americans are increasingly optimistic, too, about the potential outcome of the summit. A majority (55%) say the meeting offers a viable path for North Korea of give up its nuclear weapons. Only 47% said the same in March of this year.

Skeptical still, voters do not support (57%) a deal that would result in North Korean nuclear disarmament in exchange for reduced U.S. troop levels in South Korea.

Should North Korea give up its nuclear weapons, President Trump and Republicans, overall, can expect improved election outcomes. Thirty-one percent say a denuclearized North Korea would make them more likely to vote Trump in 2020; and 29% say they would be more likely to vote Republican in this year’s midterm.

Gun Policy

Voters overwhelmingly want movement on gun control.

In the wake of the recent Santa Fe school shooting, 83% favor tougher penalties for parents failing to secure their guns from their kids.

Close to 8 in 10 voters want White House to ask Congress to pass legislation to raise the minimum age for purchasing guns from 18 to 21 years old, and 67% of voters say gun ownership should be licensed like car ownership, versus 33% who think it should just require background checks. Overall, a majority of voters (55%) believe gun laws should be set at the federal level.

A plurality of voters, 41%, also say that enhancing school security would do most to curb school shootings -- compared to 31% who said banning assault rifles is the right approach and 28% who say increasing commitment to mental health issues is what’s needed most.

Overall, 49% attribute school violence to student mental issues vs. 41% who say it is because of easy access to guns vs. 9% who say urban gangs

For more information on the May poll, go to the CAPS/Harris Poll website for the detailed results, and please visit The Hill ( for first look analysis of all polls.

The CAPS/Harris Poll website will be updated throughout the week with more information about the poll.


The survey was conducted by The Harris Poll online within the United States from May 21-22, 2018, among 1,347 registered voters.

The results reflect a nationally representative sample. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, marital status, household size, income, employment, and education where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

The poll was supervised by Harvard Professor of Government and CAPS Faculty Director Stephen Ansolabehere, Mark Penn, and Dritan Nesho.

Harvard Professor of Government Dustin Tingley, and Assistant Professors of Government, Jon Rogowski and Joshua Kertzer, contributed to this month’s CAPS-Harris Poll.

Stephen Ansolabehere has 25 years’ experience conducting survey research and experimental research in the field of political science.

Mark Penn is a former presidential pollster and has 40 years of polling experience.

Dritan Nesho is a fellow at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science and has over 11 years of polling and data analytics experience.

See also: Polls