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Vox poll: before the Trump Jr. emails, Republicans thought the Russia question was a distraction

Before the latest revelations surfaced Tuesday regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s emails about his meeting with a Russian lawyer, 50 percent of Americans said the Russia allegations swirling around the Trump administration represented a “serious issue” that should be investigated.

Slightly fewer Americans, 46 percent, called the issue a “distraction” — and the split fell heavily along party lines.

The divide, revealed in a Vox/SurveyMonkey poll conducted earlier this month, sets a baseline for public opinion on the Russia scandal, prior to the Trump Jr. disclosures that have rocked Washington over the past few days. The partisan nature of the response, with President Trump’s supporters dismissing the allegations and his opponents seizing on them, suggests the new revelations might have a relatively minor effect on public opinion in the days to come.

Vox and SurveyMonkey asked:

As you may know, there is a congressional investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election. There are also allegations that advisors to the Trump campaign had improper contact with Russian government officials during the campaign. Do you think these allegations represent a serious issue that should be part of any investigation, or are they more of a distraction?

Of the 9,056 total responses, 50 percent said it was a serious issue and 46 said it was more of a distraction. Partisanship polarized the results: 83 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said the allegations were more of a distraction, while 83 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners called it a serious issue.

Trump’s approval ratings similarly influenced the results. Eighty-four percent of respondents who said they approve of Trump thought the Russia scandal was more of a distraction, while 79 percent of those who disapprove of the president said they think Russia is a serious issue.

As more damning evidence is revealed drawing discrete connections between the Trump administration and the Kremlin, public opinion could change. The question remains: Will Republicans and independents see the unfolding events as more troubling or continue to brush them off as distractions?

The latest bombshell that dropped Tuesday — reported by the New York Times and corroborated by Trump Jr.’s own tweets — proves the president’s son knowingly met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who claimed to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton. And experts say this action could be against the law.

Despite the mounting evidence that Trump Jr. and the Russian government have collaborated behind the scenes, the administration has been adamant about denying reports of collusion with the Kremlin. However, as Vox’s Brian Resnick reports, Trump’s loyal supporters may not care about the president’s lies and those of his advisers and family members.

With an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller in the works, it’s possible that Republicans will continue to downplay the Trump-Russia question until they are presented with information they believe to be accurate. But as Ezra Klein writes, that information is already here.