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Survey Examines How Americans View The U.S./Russia Relationship


President Trump is traveling to Germany this morning, where he plans to meet Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of an international summit. We're going to have a look, this morning, of how Americans view the country's relationship with Russia and the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

This comes from a new poll by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist. Geoff Bennett is NPR's congressional reporter. He joins us now. Geoff, President Trump is on this first leg of this big international trip. As we mentioned, he's going to meet with Vladimir Putin. What does our poll show about how Americans view U.S. relations with Russia at this moment?

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Well, a small plurality of Americans, some 46 percent overall, think President Trump's goal of improving relations with Russia is mostly a good thing for the U.S., while some 41 percent disagree. And then, when you break it down by political affiliation, Rachel, 70 percent of Democrats say it's not a worthy goal for the country - trying to improve relations with Russia - while 75 percent of Republicans say it is worth pursuing. Independents are almost equally divided on that question.

And then, when you take Trump out of the matter entirely, when asked simply if it's better for the U.S. to build relationships with Russia or to treat the country as a threat, a 59-percent majority of Americans say they believe it's better to build relationships with Russia, while 31 percent say Russia should be considered a threat and treated as such.

MARTIN: So hanging over all this is the investigation into Russian meddling in the election and whether there was specifically any collusion with the Trump campaign. Did the poll reveal anything new about Americans' perceptions of that investigation?

BENNETT: It did. And in fact, it finds the majority of Americans believe President Trump has done something either illegal or unethical when it comes to this question of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. That number includes 25 percent of those polled, who believe the president has done something illegal, and another 29 percent who think he's done something unethical but not illegal.

And that number is up 5 percent, as compared to a February 2017 Marist survey, which asked the same question. And we should also say, 36 percent of Americans believe Trump has done nothing wrong. But the way people view Trump's relationship with Russia depends, in large part, on how they're aligned politically and how they view the president. So here again, partisan tribalism wins out.

MARTIN: NPR congressional correspondent Geoff Bennett with us this morning. Thanks so much, Geoff.

BENNETT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Geoff Bennett is a White House reporter for NPR. He previously covered Capitol Hill and national politics for NY1 News in New York City and more than a dozen other Time Warner-owned cable news stations across the country. Prior to that role, he was an editor with NPR's Weekend Edition. Geoff regularly guest hosts C-SPAN's Washington Journal — a live, three-hour news and public affairs program. He began his journalism career at ABC News in New York after graduating from Morehouse College.
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