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Few Praise Comey’s Tenure at FBI; More Want Him Prosecuted

Monday, April 16, 2018

Former FBI Director James Comey has taken to print and the airwaves to angrily denounce President Trump, the man who fired him last year. But voters don’t rate Comey’s FBI performance too highly, and more think he should be legally punished for leaking to the media.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that just 14% of Likely U.S. Voters believe that Comey was a better FBI director than most of those who held the job before him. Thirty-eight percent (38%) say he did a worse job this his predecessors, while nearly as many (35%) rate his job performance as about the same as theirs. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Even among voters who Strongly Disapprove of the job Trump is doing, only 21% see Comey as a better FBI director than most of those who came before him. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of those who Strongly Approve of the president’s job performance say Comey was worse than those who preceded him in the FBI job.

Forty-six percent (46%) of all voters believe Comey should be prosecuted for leaking information to the media at the time he was director of the FBI. That’s up from 41% last June following Comey’s admission under oath to a U.S. Senate committee that he leaked memos of his private meetings with Trump as FBI director to The New York Times through a friend.

Just 34% disagree and say Comey should not be prosecuted, down 13 points from 47% in the previous survey. Twenty percent (20%) are not sure.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on April 12 and 15, 2018 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters believe a special prosecutor should be named to investigate whether senior FBI officials handled the investigations of Hillary Clinton and Trump in a legal and unbiased fashion. Comey was head of the FBI during much of this time.

Twenty percent (20%) of Democrats see Comey as a better FBI director than most of his predecessors, a view shared by just nine percent (9%) of Republicans and12% of voters not affiliated with either major party. Fifty-five percent (55%) of GOP voters think Comey was a worse FBI director than most who held the job previously.

Nearly two-out-of-three Republicans (65%) and a plurality (46%) of unaffiliated voters feel Comey should be prosecuted for leaking to the media while serving as FBI director. Just 29% of Democrats agree.

Men are more critical of Comey than women are. Those 40 and over view Comey’s job performance more harshly than younger voters do. But voters under 40 are more supportive of prosecuting the former FBI director.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of voters who think Comey did a worse job than most of his predecessors believe he should be prosecuted for leaking to the media. Among those who feel he was better than most of his predecessors, 73% oppose prosecution.

Comey earned the wrath of many Democrats just before Election Day 2016 with his reopening and reclosing of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information. Clinton initially listed Comey's actions as perhaps the chief reason for her stunning loss to Trump, and 44% of Democrats agreed.

At the time, however, 60% of all voters agreed with Comey’s decision to go public with the reopened investigation shortly before the election. In a survey just before that decision was announced, 53% continued to disagree with the FBI’s decision not to seek a criminal indictment of Clinton.

By May of last year, 35% trusted Clinton more than Comey, but 43% trusted the then-FBI director more. A month later after Trump fired him, 45% trusted Comey more than the president; 37% trusted Trump more.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Republicans – and 50% of all voters – believe senior federal law enforcement officials at the FBI and Justice Department broke the law in an effort to prevent Trump from winning the presidency in 2016.

Most Republicans (55%) believe the FBI is more likely than Russia to have meddled in the 2016 election.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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