Here's what Americans made of Trump's meeting with Putin, according to the polls

President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday drew widespread condemnation from politicians, including some Republicans. 

Between a third and 40 percent of the broader public approved of the meeting, according to three new polls, which differ significantly on the share of Americans who disapprove.

The most positive is a new HuffPost/YouGov survey, in which 40 percent of Americans say they approve of Trump’s meeting and news conference with Vladimir Putin, while 36 percent disapprove. The remainder, about a quarter, aren’t sure.

Opinions, as ever, are deeply politicized. In the HuffPost/YouGov poll, 83 percent of Trump voters approve of Trump’s performance in Helsinki, compared to the 9 percent approval he garners among voters who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Non-voters and third-party voters narrowly approve, 35 percent to 26 percent, with a 40 percent plurality undecided.

Other surveys this week, however, found the meeting to be significantly less popular. A SurveyMonkey/Axios poll also found that 40 percent of Americans approved, but registered far higher disapproval, at 58 percent. In a CBS News poll, just 32 percent approved, with 55 percent disapproving.  

One factor that may account for the difference is that neither of those surveys gave respondents an explicit option to say they weren’t sure. In the HuffPost/YouGov survey, 43 percent of Americans say they didn’t follow news about the summit very closely, or at all.

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President Donald Trump meets with Vladimir Putin in Finland
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President Donald Trump meets with Vladimir Putin in Finland
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HELSINKI, FINLAND - JULY 16, 2018: The national flags of Russia and the United States seen ahead of a meeting of Russia's President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R), U.S. President Donald Trump (C) and First lady Melania Trump attend a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HELSINKI, FINLAND - JULY 16: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'KREMLIN PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) (L-R) US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and his wife Jenni Haukio pose for a photo during their meeting in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018. (Photo by Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R), U.S. President Donald Trump (C) and First lady Melania Trump attend a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they meet in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HELSINKI, FINLAND JULY 16, 2018: US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin give a joint news conference following their meeting at the Presidential Palace. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin react at the end of the joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
U.S. President Donald Trump receives a football from Russia's President Vladimir Putin during their joint news conference after a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C), U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and First lady Melania Trump pose for a picture with a football during a meeting in Helsinki, Finland July 16, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HELSINKI, FINLAND JULY 16, 2018: US First Lady Melania Trump, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and US President Donald Trump (L-R) after a news conference at the Presidential Palace. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump holds a football thrown to her by U.S. President Donald Trump during his joint news conference with Russia's President Vladimir Putin after a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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We wanted to get a better sense of what the public had actually heard about Trump’s meeting before they were quizzed about it by pollsters. So prior to asking any questions about Russia, we first asked a subset of the people we polled to answer a much more general question: What would they say happened in the news on Monday? Both Clinton and Trump voters were largely tuned into the Russia story, but with very different interpretations.

One Clinton voter who described herself as “very liberal” fumed, ”#45 met with Putin in Helsinki,” and said she strongly disapproved of Trump’s performance Monday. “He pandered to the Russian and despite confirmation from all US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled with the 2016 election, ignored the information and gave Putin a pass. It was absolutely egregious.”

Another wrote, more succinctly, “I saw the President of the United States side with an enemy of the United States.”

Trump voters, by contrast, largely praised the meeting, with many blaming the media for attempting to “push him into embarrassing Putin in front of the world” or for providing negative coverage of the summit.

“A historic and necessary meeting took place between the U.S. and Russia,” wrote one man, who described himself as very conservative and a strong Trump supporter, “but according to the media we should be pushing their agenda and confronting Russia over made-up investigations and junk. [T]he President is absolutely doing the right thing.”

Still, several Trump voters did express displeasure with some aspects of Trump’s performance. “I can’t believe my president disbelieved his own intelligence people in favor of Puty Pute,” wrote one man who strongly approves of the president overall, but was less than impressed with his performance on Monday. 

“The summit looked like it would be a success but at the last minute the question about Russian interference and [Trump’s] answer gave the left ammunition to attack Trump,” wrote another man, who approves of Trump and considers him a strong leader, but also said he disapproved of the president’s performance in Helsinki. “He was wrong in his answer but right about no collusion.”

Non-voters, as a bloc, weren’t entirely tuned out of the Russia news: ”Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki Finland,” reported one 20-year-old woman who described herself as a moderate independent and said she somewhat approved of the meeting, despite feeling Trump has been too positive in his treatment of Putin. “There, they met in private and then held a press conference together.”

But compared to the partisans, they mostly didn’t see the issue as top of mind. More than half of the non-voters asked said they hadn’t really been paying attention to the news. Others focused on news beyond the Russia summit ― such as updates on the Thai cave rescue, local car thefts. Summarized one woman, a 2012 Obama voter who stayed home in 2016, and described herself as following politics “only now and then”: ”Someone died, wildfires & volcanos, hot weather and [we have] an idiot for President.”

Most Americans Dislike Putin, Believe Trump Views Him Positively

Broader public opinion about Trump’s handling of Russia has been notably resistant to change, even as news stories have piled up about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling. A poll conducted last week, just after the indictment of 12 Russian hackers, found Americans’ views still basically unmoved from where they’d been more than a year prior.

Most of the results in the latest HuffPost/YouGov poll suggest that’s still the case. Americans say, 54 percent to 20 percent, that they believe Trump has a favorable opinion of Putin. That’s almost unchanged from an Economist/YouGov poll conducted the week before the summit. A third of Americans say Trump’s treatment of Putin has been about right, while 36 percent say it’s been too positive and just 4 percent that it’s been too negative. The rest are unsure. About three-quarters of Trump voters say the president’s treatment of Putin has been about right, with 14 percent saying that he’s been too positive toward the Russian leader.

Americans’ own views of Putin, by contrast, remain largely unfavorable. In the most recent poll, just 19 percent hold a positive view of the Russian leader, while 60 percent view him negatively. Eighty-four percent of Clinton voters and 65 percent of Trump voters say they hold a negative view of Putin.

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Vladimir Putin through the years
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Vladimir Putin through the years
P362575 05: A class photo with Vladimir Putin, (fourth row, second from left) dated 1966 in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Laski Diffusion)
368975 01: (AMERICAS ONLY) FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, poses for a photograph in this file photo with his parents Maria and Vladimir Putin in1985 just before his departure to Germany. Putin was sworn in as Russia''s second democratically elected president May 7, 2000, pledging to restore Russia as a great power. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Newsmakers)
ITAR-TASS: LENINGRAD, USSR. Vladimir Putin seen with his wife Lyudmila and daughter Maria. File photo from family archive was taken in spring 1985. (Photo ITAR-TASS) (Photo by TASS via Getty Images)
St, petersburg mayor anatoly sobchak and austrian chancellor's wife christine vranitzky during a ceremony to name 'austria square' in downtown st, petersburg, austria has pledged to restore the square, future president of russia, vladimir putin, looks on, far left, september 1992. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
President George Bush meets with President Vladimir Putin at the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. Bush was meeting with Putin to thank him for signing the UN resolution demanding disarmament of Iraq. (Photo by ?? Brooks Kraft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
KRASNODAR, RUSSIA: Russian acting President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to a boy (R) during his visit to the Children's regional clinic hospital in Krasnodar 11 February 2000. Putin arrived in Krasnodar for a two-day visit to take a part in the All Russia Conference on emergency measures to stabilise and develop the Russian agro-industrial complex. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Uzbek president islam karimov helping rf president vladimir putin put on a traditional robe, uzbekistan, december 1999. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura greet President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila outside of the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. Bush was meeting with Putin to thank him for signing the UN resolution demanding disarmament of Iraq. (Photo by ?? Brooks Kraft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY4: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (L) pose with their wives Ludmila Putin (2nd L) and Ana Botella before their lunch at Moncloa Palace June 14. Putin said he had no reason to believe the arrest of media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky was politically motivated but vowed to examine the case, which has stirred stormy protest in Moscow. (Photo credit should read SERGEI KARPUKHIN/AFP/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Vladimir Putin - Politician, Mayor St. Petersburg, Russia - signs an agreement about the marketing of inventions. Second Mayor and Senator of Economics of Hamburg Hans-Juergen Krupp (right) (Photo by Ambor/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Moscow, russia, outgoing russian president boris yeltsin (r) shaking hands with russian prime minister and acting president vladimir putin (l) as he leaves moscow's kremlin, the seat of russian power,1999. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
Russian prime minister vladimir putin seen casting his vote during the elections to the state duma, at the polling station #2026 in moscow's kosygina street,moscow, russia, december 19, 1999. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
N362234 01: (FILE PHOTO) Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov on August 16, 1999. President Boris Yeltsin announced on national television Friday, Dec. 31, 1999 that he had resigned and presidential elections will be held within 90 days to replace him. Yeltsin said he was stepping down immediately because he wanted Putin to succeed him. Putin, the country's most popular politician, immediately took control of the government and will serve as acting president until the elections. (photo by Laski Diffusion/Liaison Agency)
SEVEROMORSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 7: Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin watches the tactical exercises of Russia's Northern Fleet in the Barentsevo Sea, 06 April 2000. Vladimir Putin spent the night underwater in a nuclear submarine near the Arctic Circle. (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Russia meeting also doesn’t seem to have affected the public’s view of Trump’s strength. Americans are split 50/50 on whether the president is a strong or a weak leader, exactly as they were a week ago. By a 9-point margin, they say Trump does not apologize too much to the rest of the world for past United States policies. (In a 2009 Fox News poll, voters said by a 6-point margin that Obama did apologize too often.)

One number, however, doesn’t fit with the rest of the data in suggesting that Trump’s meeting had little effect on public opinion. The HuffPost/YouGov poll finds a modest uptick on the share of Americans who think Trump’s ties to Russia are a legitimate issue: 51 percent say that it is, up from 45 percent last Friday and in line with the heightened concerns seen after the firing of James Comey and the meeting where Trump reportedly divulged classified information to Russian officials.

The difference is driven largely by voters who supported Trump in the presidential election: 40 percent now call his administration’s relationship with Russia a legitimate issue, up from 22 percent in last week’s survey. Given the rest of the numbers, and the propensity for tracking numbers to vary poll to poll, especially among subgroups, it’s hard to tell whether or not that shift means much. One possibility is that, in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s meeting, his supporters are simply more likely to interpret the question as asking about Trump’s current diplomacy with Russia, rather than Russian interference during the last presidential election.

Whatever its cause, the shift doesn’t seem to carry over to perceptions that the issue is an especially serious one. The 28 percent who currently say that the White House’s relationship with Russia is a minor downtick from 32 percent last week; the 48 percent who call it at least somewhat serious is well in range of other recent surveys. 

One other question suggests that Trump voters’ concerns remain modest. Asked whether they cared more about the president’s summit with Putin or about the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court justice, Trump voters say by a 38-point margin that they’re more focused on the Supreme Court. Clinton voters, by a 14-point margin, place more weight on the summit.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted July 16-18 among U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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