- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2018

Seventy-five percent of Americans think Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election but a majority also prefer working to improve relations with Russia rather than Washington using harsh sanctions against the country, according to a new Gallup poll.

In the survey published Monday, among those respondents who think Russia interfered there was a roughly equal split as to the effect — 36 percent agreed Russia interfered but it did not change the outcome — 39 percent said Moscow and its actions impacted the result.

Among Republicans, the majority, 58 percent, believe Russia interfered but it did not change the outcome while nearly one in three Republicans reject the idea that Russia interfered. Democrats widely believe Russians interfered and that it changed the outcome, with 78 percent saying this.

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Gallup noted that the survey, conducted Aug. 1-12, was undertaken amid increasingly tense relations between Washington and Moscow.

Those tensions include special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia and the Trump campaign, in addition to fallout from July’s Trump-Putin summit, which Gallup noted “may have been designed to improve U.S.-Russian relations, but the event was overshadowed by Trump’s apparent siding with Putin over U.S. intelligence officials about Russian involvement in the 2016 election.”

Those clouds appear to hang overviews of Mr. Trump’s ability to confront Mr. Putin, as the poll found that only 35 percent of respondents approved of his handling of Russian relations, which is worse than opinions of the president is handling other issues.

Overall, two-thirds of Americans say they are following news about Russia and the 2016 U.S. presidential election closely, including 33 percent who say “very closely.” Three-quarters of both Republicans and Democrats say they are following the news very or somewhat closely, but Democrats are somewhat more likely to say they are following it “very closely,” 42 percent to 33 percent.

Independents are paying less attention: 59 percent are following it, including 28 percent who say very closely.

As for working to improve relations between the countries, 58 percent want that rather than strong diplomatic and economic steps against Russia, which 36 percent favor.

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