The evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election has only grown since Donald Trump took office. Yet a whopping 72 percent of Trump voters believe the whole story is “fake news.” A mere 14 percent believe there’s anything to the Russia story.
That’s according to an astonishing new survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling. Here some additional highlights:
- Fewer than half of Trump voters (45 percent) believe Donald Trump Jr. met with Russians about information that might be harmful to Hillary Clinton; 32 percent don’t believe the meeting even took place; 24 percent are unsure.
- 13 percent of Trump voters think there was knowing collusion — as in, that Trump’s team actively worked with the Russians — to gain an advantage in the election, whereas 81 percent say it didn't happen at all.
A July 15 ABC/Washington Post poll found a similarly disturbing trend: Only 9 percent of Republicans polled said they believe Russia tried to influence the election, which was down — yes, down — from 18 percent in April.
This is all despite the fact that:
- The US intelligence community has unanimously stated that Russia tried to influence the election to help Trump win.
- Donald Trump Jr. personally tweeted out a series of emails in which he explicitly states that he would “love” to set up the meeting as long as the Russian lawyer had incriminating information on Clinton.
- He has since admitted that he did, in fact, attend said meeting.
- The president himself basically admitted that the meeting happened.
This is staggering. It means that even when Trump and his team openly admit to doing something — regardless of whether they believe that thing is bad or illegal — some Trump supporters will still refuse to believe it.
Trump supporters just don’t want to believe the Russia story
A quick look at the crosstabs of the poll show there is a clear partisan split when it comes to what people think about Russia’s involvement in the election. Those who voted for Trump are a lot less likely to believe the story than those who voted for Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, or Jill Stein.
Anecdotal evidence also seems to support this finding. When my colleague Lindsay Maizland traveled to her home state of Michigan — a state Trump won in the election — in July, she found that people there overwhelmingly believe the whole Russia story is “fake news.”
People told her that they feel ignored by the Washington establishment, hate the “liberal media,” and couldn’t care less about the Russia investigation. They saw it as a distraction from what America should be focusing on: the return of jobs to areas that have been neglected by Washington for years.
Still, that real, verifiable facts that come directly from the Trump family themselves don’t seem to be able to change opinions about the veracity of at least some aspects of the Russia story is troubling. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that people don’t like learning information they are predisposed to disagree with, as my colleague Brian Resnick discovered. Clearly the Russia story is something Trump supporters just don’t want to face.
That’s going to be a problem, though, as the evidence piles up that Russia did a lot more to influence the election than the president wants to admit. Worse, it may mean that some Americans might not even care that Russia orchestrated one of the greatest attacks on US democracy in our country’s history.