New Firehouse/Optimus Survey – Independents Find Mueller to be More Trustworthy than Trump

May 11, 2018

This week, President Trump’s team increased attacks on the credibility of the special counsel investigation, while several big primaries marked the unofficial start of the midterm campaigns.

At this pivotal time, we wanted to know more about what voters are thinking about Donald Trump, Robert Mueller, Democratic leadership and the midterms. As we have done previously, we partnered with the data analytics team at 0ptimus to interview 2,486 likely midterm voters in the swing states of Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Key Findings:

  • Voters are evenly divided when asked which party will win control of the House of Representatives in the fall. 35.5% believe that Republicans will retain control of the House, 35.0% believe Democrats will take control of the House, and 29.4% are not sure either way. Notably, members in each party have faith that their favorites will prevail: Democrats (57.3%-14.6%) and Republicans (54.9%-16.1%) have nearly identical assessments as to whether their party will win. Independents are more bullish on the Democratic party, with 45.7% saying Democrats will win, and 25.7% saying Republicans will win.
    • KEY POINT: While conventional wisdom in DC may be that Democrats are favored to regain control of the House of Representatives, swing state voters don’t see a clear favorite yet. 


  • If Democrats do take control of the House in the midterm elections, many voters, including Democrats, do not want to see Nancy Pelosi re-elected as Speaker. Only 18.4% of voters say she should be Speaker of the House if Democrats take the House, while 54.8% say she should not. 26.8% are not sure how they feel. Even amongst Democrats, Pelosi only garners 26.6% support for the speakership, with 35.4% against her and 38.0% not sure.
    • KEY POINT: Nancy Pelosi is upside down among swing-state Democrats.


  • Voters are divided on who is more trustworthy between Donald Trump and Robert Mueller. Of those surveyed, 37.8% say Trump is more honest and trustworthy, while 37.3% say Mueller is. An additional 24.8% are not sure. Among Republicans, 58.8% say Trump is more honest compared to only 17.8% who say Mueller is. Crucially, 44.7% of independents choose Mueller, compared to only 25.7% for Trump. Compared with our February survey, this represents a slight shift towards Mueller among all voters, but significant movement towards Mueller among independents, who picked Mueller over Trump 39.8%-35.8% last time.
    • KEY POINT: While Republicans remain largely united behind Donald Trump, the Mueller investigation is gaining credibility among independent voters.  


  • Like other public surveys, we find Trump’s favorability ratings to be amazingly stable. In our new survey, 41.9% of voters have a favorable opinion of Trump, while 43.6% have an unfavorable opinion. Not surprisingly, Trump is extraordinarily polarizing: 70% of voters had strong feelings about Trump (32.9% strongly favorably; 37.8% strongly negative). These numbers look very similar to our February read. In fact, while unfavorable views of Trump have bounced between 43% and 51% in the four Firehouse-0ptimus reads taken since April 2017, his favorables have only varied between 42% and 45% (fig 1).
    • KEY POINT: Trump’s favorables are low compared to other presidents at this point in their presidencies, but have remained much more stable over time.


  • We also asked again whether voters believe Trump tells the truth. Among those surveyed this month, 46.9% believe Trump lies intentionally to mislead people on a regular basis, 28.7% believe he exaggerates the truth with good intent, and 24.4% believe he does not lie. 73.7% of Democrats believe that Trump lies intentionally, while only 23.8% of Republicans believe so. Independents are right in the middle, with 50.6% saying he lies intentionally.
    • KEY POINT: Over time, Trump supporters seem to be shifting towards believing that Donald Trump does not lie rather than exaggerates the truth, while his opponents remain steadfast in believing that he lies regularly (fig 2).  


Figure 1
Trump Favorability Over Time

Figure 2
Trump’s Perceived Honesty Over Time

Methodology: Between 5/4-5/6, we surveyed 2,486 modeled likely midterm voters in Florida (N = 1,081), Wisconsin (N = 400), Pennsylvania (N = 577) and Ohio (N = 428) via IVR, landline only. Likely voters were defined as registered voters having voted in the 2010 or 2014 midterm elections, plus the 15% additional most likely to turnout based on in-house turnout score modeling. Margin of error varies by question and segment, but is generally +/- 2.1% for topline results. Sample was weighted by state, age, gender, and party based on 2014 midterm turnout in the latest L2 voter file for each state. Results were then re-balanced based on these cohorts.