CAPS - Harris Poll on The Special Investigation, North Korea, and Syria

April 27, 2018

The Special Counsel investigation, James Comey’s actions, North Korea and Syria are addressed in the April 2018 poll by the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard (CAPS) and The Harris Poll.

Political Climate

In the public policy survey conducted in April among 1,549 registered voters by the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard (CAPS) and The Harris Poll, President Trump’s job approval remains steady at 44%. Like previous months of the poll, voters credit Trump in his handling of the economy (54% approve), fighting terrorism (55%), and simulating jobs (55%). But less than half of voters approve his handling of foreign affairs, administering the government, and immigration. In a generic ballot, Democrats continue to lead Republicans (43% vs. 34%). The majority of voters would like to see the Democrats take control of the House (56%) and the Senate (55%).

Investigation into Trump Campaign on Russian Collusion

The electorate is virtually split on their impression of the investigation. Asked if evidence of collusion had been found, 37% say yes, 37% say no, 26% are unsure. If the special counsel has yet to find evidence, voters are again split on whether Mueller should continue to investigate (51%) or not (49%). As we approach a year of the special investigation, most voters (60%) support requiring a Congressional renewal every six months in order to continue.

Voters are cynical towards both sides of the investigation. On the part of President Trump, most (56%) believe the firing of Comey constituted obstruction of justice. Still, voters believe that FBI bias against Trump played a role in launching the investigation (55%). And although two-thirds oppose Mueller’s oust, a large majority (72%) favor investigating potential abuses at the FBI.

Putting Trump’s rhetoric aside, voters generally are satisfied with the actions taken by special counsel in the investigation so far. A majority (58%) believe Mueller has stayed “within the boundaries” of the Russia investigation; a majority (61%) too believe Mueller was within his power to refer the raid of Michael Cohen’s office to the Justice Department. In principle, voters are split on whether issues from the President’s personal life are within the scope of the investigation (52%) or not (48%).

Comey’s Memo Leak

Though just over half of voters (52%) say that James Comey was wrong to leak the memos of his one-on-one meetings with President Trump, there appears to be some sympathy for his situation. For example, if Comey had suspected President Trump was trying to obstruct the investigation into Russia election interference, then 62% say leaking the memos was the right thing to do.

Whether or not Comey knowingly released classified information is a tipping point – 56% say leaking the memo with classified information is an indictable criminal offense by Comey. What voters take away is that more vetting and laws should be in place to prevent mishandling of classified information (67%).

North Korea

Voters increasingly approve (56% up from 50% in February 2018) of the way the U.S. is handling tensions with North Korea, but they are not without reservations. While a large majority support President Trump’s decision to meet with Kim Jong-Un (69%), there is uncertainty as to whether such talks will result in North Korean denuclearization (50%).

Skeptical of Kim Jong-Un’s motives, voters don’t consider the closing of North Korean nuclear test sites constitutes a “diplomatic victory” (38%), rather 62% believe such actions are posturing by North Korea.

The ultimate outcome in North Korea is uncertain for voters. As compared to last month, voters are more likely to believe that diplomacy and economic sanctions will deter North Korea from aggression (35% up from 32%) or that President Trump will reach a deal with North Korea (25% up from 21%).

Middle East

Americans are hesitant to intervene in the Middle East. Following the missile strike in Syria, voters are more likely to say the U.S. is doing “too much” than “too little” (27% and 24%, respectively) in the Middle East. This is a reversal from last month when more voters said the U.S. was doing “too little” vs. “too much” (34% and 22%, respectively).

On the missile strike in Syria, about two-thirds of voters (65%) support it, but fewer (though still a majority, 57%) believe in adopting a rule of missile strikes following Syrian chemical weapons use.

Maintaining a military presence in Syria is an unpopular idea. Most voters (72%) instead support incoming National Security Advisor John Bolton’s plan to bring in Arab peacekeepers and aid in a regional resolution without direct involvement.


Americans continue to favor (66%) a DACA deal that would include a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, but also increases merit-based immigration and funding for the U.S.-Mexico border. Americans, however, are in opposition (56%) of the “sanctuary” laws in California, currently the subject of a White House lawsuit.

For more information on the March 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 between April 22-24, 2018, among 1,549 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 Assistant Professor of Government, Jon Rogowski, 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.