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Michigan voters strongly back the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential elections, with a majority saying they believe the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller is "fair," according to a new statewide poll. 

The survey conducted last week for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV found that 63 percent of the 600 likely voters polled support the Mueller investigation, while 31 percent do not. About 46 percent "strongly" favor the probe despite President Donald Trump's frequent criticism of the inquiry as a tainted "witch hunt."

"Public opinion has turned strongly against the Rigged Witch Hunt and the 'Special' Counsel because the public understands that there was no Collusion with Russia (so ridiculous), that the two FBI lovers were a fraud against our Nation & that the only Collusion was with the Dems!" Trump tweeted in July. 

Over 51 percent of respondents to the poll said the Mueller investigation is "fair," while 32 percent believe it's "rigged," as the president has called it. Another 17 percent said they don't know. 

"By a 20-point margin, they say it's fair. They are not buying the president's argument about this," said Richard Czuba, who conducted the poll for the Lansing-based Glengariff Group. "It shows wide and deep support among everyone but Republicans for the Mueller investigation. 

"People like to say, 'Oh, everyone’s so divided right now,' but I don’t think that’s the case. Democrats and independents are viewing these issues similarly, and it’s, in fact, the Republican base that’s viewing issues differently than everyone else."

A Sept. 6-9 poll of 1,003 voters nationally conducted for CNN found that 50 percent approve of Mueller's handling of the Russia investigation as opposed to the 30 percent approval of Trump's handling of the same matter — a difference of 20 points. The poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 3.8 percentage points.

The News poll also found a significant portion — 41 percent of voters — support U.S. House impeachment hearings for Trump. The poll had a margin of error of minus-plus 4 percentage points.

The CNN survey found 47 percent support impeachment and removal of Trump from office, while 48 oppose the move.

The Constitution lets Congress remove a president from office before the end of his term if enough lawmakers vote to say the president committed "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors." 

On the Mueller probe, some people might have been moved by the recent conviction of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort or the guilty plea entered by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, said Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University.

“There’s been slight changes in Trump’s approval rating downward that seem to indicate that the latest things that happened in the Mueller investigation might have made some difference for some people who were on the edge," Grossmann said.

"You obviously had some people who were formerly involved in the Trump campaign and one who was formerly a defender, so there's some chance that broke through to some people." 

The survey found that 70 percent of respondents who primarily get their news from the Fox News cable channel say the Russia investigation is "rigged."   

Voters whose primary source of news is something other than Fox (newspapers, radio, network television, local TV, CNN or MSNBC) overwhelmingly declared the probe "fair." 

"Fox News is having a very unusual disproportionate effect among Republican voters," Czuba said. "It really is telling."

Trump certainly hasn't let up in his attacks on the Mueller probe, starting off his Tuesday — the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks — by tweeting a reference to Fox News personalities Lou Dobbs and Sara Carter:

"'We have found nothing to show collusion between President Trump & Russia, absolutely zero, but every day we get more documentation showing collusion between the FBI & DOJ, the Hillary campaign, foreign spies & Russians, incredible.' @SaraCarterDC @LouDobbs," Trump wrote.

Trump impeachment?

Impeachment hearings for Trump haven't been embraced by Democratic leaders, who are not raising the idea. The poll found most Michigan voters said they oppose impeachment (49 percent), including 47 percent of independents.

"Independent voters are sharply opposed to impeachment. To some degree, this may be why you’re not hearing about it from Democrats. They recognize this threat turns independents off," Czuba said. 

"These independents don’t support Trump right now — they view him unfavorably — but in their minds, this has not moved to that level yet." 

Republicans are mentioning impeachment more but as a threat — that it's what Democrats would go after if they take control of Congress, MSU's Grossmann noted.

"That matches the 1998 midterm elections when it was better used by the Democrats at that point," said Grossmann, referring to the threat of impeaching President Bill Clinton. 

"While there’s been some interest from some parts of the Democratic base and (billionaire donor) Tom Steyer, the elected officials have not seemed very interested in doing it. That suggests they don’t think it’s a winning political issue."

A group funded by the pro-impeachment Steyer called NextGen America has been operating a voter registration campaign for young voters in Michigan. The group bills itself as wanting to "prevent climate disaster, promote prosperity and protect the fundamental rights of every American."

Under the Constitution, the U.S. House can bring a charge of impeachment against the president by a majority vote. 

The U.S. Senate then holds a trial overseen by the U.S. Supreme Court's chief justice. The senators serve as a de facto jury. If they vote by a two-thirds majority to remove the president, the vice president assumes the presidency.

Presidents Clinton in 1998 and President Andrew Johnson in 1868 have been impeached but stayed in office because they were later acquitted by the Senate. President Richard Nixon resigned from office in 1974 to avoid possible impeachment.

Among the 41 percent of voters who said Trump should be impeached, the greatest support was among Democratic voters and those who lean Democratic. 

mburke@detroitnews.com

 

Mueller Russia probe

Support 63%

Oppose 31%

Undecided 6%

 

Probe ‘fair’ or ‘rigged’?

Fair 51%

Rigged 32%

Don’t know 17%

 

Impeach hearings for Trump?

Support 41%

Oppose 49%

Undecided 10%

 

Note: Sept. 5-7 poll of 600 likely Michigan voters. Margin of error: plus-minus 4 percentage points.

Source: Glengariff Group

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