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Americans increasingly believe Russia meddled in the 2016 election

No matter what Trump says.

President Donald Trump meets with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images
Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

An increasing number of Americans do believe, contrary to President Donald Trump’s wildly inconsistent statements and claims, that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election and that the interference affected the election’s outcome, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

By three different metrics, Americans’ belief that Russia meddled in the 2016 election — the consensus of the US intelligence community — is rising. The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted during and after Trump’s meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, when the president’s performance in a press conference was widely panned for his timidity in confronting Putin and his apparent willingness to believe Putin’s claims about the 2016 election over the findings of American intelligence.

Americans clearly feel very differently. From the new survey of 900 registered voters:

  • 65 percent of voters say they believe Russia interfered with the 2016 election. That is up 12 points from a year ago.
  • 41 percent of voters say they believe the Russian meddling affected the outcome of the 2016 election, an increase of 8 points from a year ago.
  • 30 percent of voters say they believe Hillary Clinton would have won the 2016 election if not for Russian interference, up 6 points from last year.

In a related finding in the NBC/WSJ poll, a mere 26 percent of Americans said they approved of how Trump has handled Russia as president, while 51 percent said that they disapproved. Republicans, however, still remain mostly supportive of the president.

It is not clear how the public’s feelings about Russia and 2016 will translate to either the Robert Mueller investigation — which is also probing collusion between Russia and Trumpworld, a separate question from the Russian interference — or the 2018 midterm elections.

On Mueller, 46 percent said they believed the investigation should continue, while 38 percent said it should end. Those numbers were virtually unchanged from a similar poll the month before. Most Democrats and independents support the investigation, while most Republicans oppose it.

As for the elections, the economy, health care, and guns are the issues at the top of voters’ minds, according to the NBC/WSJ survey — not Russia.

Nevertheless, the new findings are a potent reminder that Trump is increasingly isolated whenever he suggests that there might be any doubt whether Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 election.