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Barr’s Memo Doesn’t Change Many Opinions on Trump, Polls Suggest

Updated on November 4, 2021
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.

Published in Time Magazine
Published in Time Magazine | Source

Looking Back: How It Started

The information expressed in this article is outdated, there's no doubt about it. Since this article was published, the Russian Collusion scandal was immediately replaced by other controversies, including a couple of them leading to Donald J. Trump becoming the first president to be impeached, twice.

In addition, Trump had a fallout with former United States Attorny General William Barr and was voted out of office (raising a whole new controversy, considering he and his followers didn't accept the outcome of the 2020 Presidental election).

Still, ever since the emergence of William Barr's infamous memo, the Russian Collusion scandal has been met with scrutiny and denial by avid Trump supporters. So much so, that it is not uncommon these days for Trumpers to use this to ridicule anyone they consider to be an Anti-Trumper.

Even after the Mueller report -- upon which the memo was supposed to be summary -- stated that the findings were inconclusive due to the lack of participation and deliberate blocking by the Trump administration, the supporters have embraced the scan and vague information in the memo, to proclaim the report as part of (what they call) the "Russian Collusion Hoax".

Looking back, the memo will be a footnote in history; however, it does leave an indelible mark. It is here where the evidence of the Mueller report was publically marred. And, it signifies the moment that Trump and his supporters felt emboldened to deny the reality of the report and make themselves look like the victim in this matter. And this continues on, as of the writing of this introduction (2021).

The Infamous Memo

Fallout from Attorney General William Barr’s memo has been swift. As of 2019 (the original publication of this article), both sides of the political spectrum have taken notice and interpreted it in very different ways.

Supporters of President Donald Trump celebrated the memo’s perceived message and lambasted his critics. The administration, itself, felt emboldened by the memo to attack media critics and push forth with their political agendas.

On the other side, congressional Democrats prepared for the next phase, which entailed more investigations on a myriad of topics pertaining to the president, his cabinet members, aides, and anyone associated with Trump. In addition, possible subpoenas for various investigations from jurisdictions such as the Southern District of New York are likely to be issued within weeks.

However, with all that’s materializing in this ever-changing and fast moving event, most polls suggest that the victory the president currently claims is hollow. They suggest that opinions haven’t changed much. Most polls show Trump is still steady with an average approval rating below 50% while the they hint that a majority of the people still believe that the president and his administration are guilty.

Succinctly speaking, this is the aftermath of the Special Counsel’s investigation into collusion between the president’s men and the Russian oligarchy during the 2016 presidential election. The memo that was meant to signal an end to the counsel’s investigation has only deepened the investigation into the president's conduct.

The Memo is Released

The now infamous memo summarized—allegedly—Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, stating that his team couldn’t find conclusive evidence of collusion between Trump’s team and the Russians. In addition – and an extremely important part of the memo –, it mentioned in contrast that Trump “was not exonerated” of the charges of obstruction.

Essentially, the memo indicated that it was a draw rather than an outright condemnation of the president. As of this writing (a term that will repeated often in this article due to news breaking by the minute), the memo may not be sitting well with investigators on Mueller’s team; especially for those that claim the memo understated the potential damage the report may have on the president.

Despite the supposed inconclusiveness mentioned in the memo, Trump and his supporters spun this to be a victory. In part, the perceived triumph came at the hands of Trump’s appointees, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein, after the question of obstruction was deferred to them. Barr made the decision that there was not enough evidence for indictment on obstruction charges.

At the same time, other supporters logged onto the Internet to slam anyone they perceived as being anti-Trump.

Even Trump tweeted (something he -- surprisingly -- didn’t do for 40 hours after news that the Mueller Report had been delivered to Barr) the half-truth that he was vindicated of collusion and “fully exonerated” of obstruction.

Soon afterwards, his supporters took to social media, gloating with childlike glee about the president’s innocence. At the same time, other supporters logged onto the Internet to slam anyone they perceived as being anti-Trump. The targets included members of the mainstream media, public figures, or average social media users that had expressed their discontent with the president and his actions.

Where's the Spike in Popularity?

Pundits on both sides of the political spectrum believed the Barr memo would do three things:

  • Move President Trump’s approval rating above 50% mark;
  • Take the threat of impeachment off the table; and
  • Improve his chances for reelection.

And, from the way his supporters reacted, it seemed that these things were going to happen. However, the polls indicated that the public as a whole wasn’t buying it.

Popular statistician, Nate Silver and his site – a site that gauges most major polls – tabulated an overall approval/disapproval rating of the president. As of April 3, 2019 – the 804th day of Trump’s presidency – he had:

  • 52.6% disapproval rating; and
  • 42.2% approval.

These numbers have been consistent. This include before and after the memo's release. Moreover, on average, this has been steady since the start of his presidency.

from (April 3, 2019)
from (April 3, 2019) | Source

Polls Remain the Same

Many of the polls documented by FiveThirtyEight indicated the presidential approval ratings were under 50% before the memo’s release, and were consistent after its release.

Still, there was one exception. The Rasmussen Poll had him at 50% approval (for March 29-April 3, 2019). This was actually a 1% increase from the previous release. Rasmussen -- often described as conservative or right leaning -- has had favorable polling for Trump since he came to office.

Guilt or Innocence

If the memo was meant to sway opinions on the Mueller investigation, as well as on Trump’s guilt or innocence on the matter, it did little to change preexisting opinions.

A Washington Post-Schar School poll released on March 30th, appeared to be the most favorable for the president. It revealed that slightly over 50% percent of respondents accepted the memo’s message that Trump’s campaign did not criminally have connection with the Russians. Conversely, 41% of the respondents believed that the memo didn’t absolve Trump of the accusations.

However, when it comes to releasing the Mueller Report this particular poll states that:

  • 83% of respondents believe it should be made public in its entirety;
  • 57% believe the Barr memo does not have enough details about the report.

In addition to that (when divided by party lines), the poll suggests that 8 out of 10 Republicans feel “satisfied” with the investigation’s conclusion, despite much of this based on the Barr’s memo. About 56% of Democratic respondents reported they were dissatisfied with the report (again, this was based on information given by the memo).

In addition, the poll suggested that party affiliation dictated how many respondents felt about the investigation, overall. It showed that:

  • 76% of those identified as Democrats believed Trump colluded with the Russians
  • 8 out of 10 Democrats believed Trump obstructed the investigation.


A March 27th article on indicated that their poll had a different result. It stated: “A majority(56%) says the President has not been exonerated of collusion, but they also stated that information given about collusion could not be proven.”

The report mentioned that only 43% of respondents thought the report exonerated Trump of collusion.

When broken down, however, the report indicated that:

  • 77% of Republicans say the president has been exonerated;
  • 80% of Democrats say he was not exonerated;
  • 58% of independent voters believe the president was not exonerated.

Moreover, the CNN polls indicated that there was little change from polls made earlier in the year. In a previous poll, 42% stated Trump’s campaign “did not collude with the Russian government to help get Trump elected.”

Other Polls Show Reaction to Memo

The NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist Poll released on March 29th suggested:

  • 56% of adults think questions still exist about whether Trump’s involvement in the Russian Collusion Investigation.
  • Slightly over a third of respondents believed the report’s findings cleared Trump of guilt.

This particular poll gauged the respondents about the continuance of the investigation by congress. It was revealed that they were split on this matter.

Also, the poll suggested that a quarter of the respondents believed Trump was guilty of dealing with the Russians while a third of them stated he did something unethical. About 35% claimed he did “nothing wrong.”

Other findings from the [NBC/Wall Street Journal] poll] revealed that 31% of respondents were not sure Trump has been cleared of wrongdoing.

A CBS News poll revealed:

  • 36% of respondents believed that there was not enough information to judge if the Mueller report cleared Trump;
  • A little more than a third of the respondents believed Trump had been cleared of wrongdoing; and
  • 23% of respondents believed Trump had not been cleared, based on the information available.

NBC and the Wall Street Journal conducted a joint poll. In the NBC News/ Wall Street Journal Poll, the respondents responded to the memo's conclusion about the Russian probe. The poll revealed:

  • 29% of respondents believed Trump had been cleared of involvements or wrongdoing;
  • 40% did not believe Trump had been cleared;

Other findings from the poll revealed that 31% of respondents are not sure Trump had been cleared of wrongdoing. Upon this one part of the polling questions, the party breakdown was as follows:

  • 45% of independent voters were not sure of Trump’s guilt or innocence;
  • 27% of Democrats; and
  • 25% of Republicans.


As of this Writing…

It’s April 4th and things are changing by the hour. First the New York Times reported that some members of the Mueller team are leaking their “frustration” with Barr’s handling of the report. Now, major media outlets such as CNN and the newspaper Washington Post are reporting on these leaks.

The leaks suggest that there was critical and damaging information pertaining to Trump and his involvement. The team, it appears, the Barr critically played down the accusations against Trump.

In addition, the House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena to release the full report without redaction (at this point, Barr reportedly mentioned that he was going to release a redacted report within weeks).

Incidentally, most new polls haven’t been released, yet. By the end of the week many will be released. One can only speculate upon the findings these future polls will reveal.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Dean Traylor


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