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A majority of Americans — 54 percent — think that President Donald Trump’s abrupt dismissal of FBI Director James Comey was not appropriate, while 46 percent think that Comey was fired due to the Russia investigation, according to results from a new NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll.
A strong majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaners (84 percent) and Independents who do not lean toward either party (61 percent) say that the firing was not appropriate. Among Republicans and Republican-leaners, 79 percent approve of the move, while 13 percent say it was not appropriate.
Overall, 46 percent of Americans think Trump's decision to fire Comey was related to the Russia investigation. About a quarter, 24 percent, believe Comey's removal was due to his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and 22 percent said it was something else.
Partisans disagree, however, on the rationale behind Comey’s firing. A majority of Democrats (67 percent) think his handling of the Russia investigation was the cause of President Trump’s decision, whereas a plurality (43 percent) of Republicans say it was due to the Clinton investigation.
A majority of Americans (54 percent) agree that allegations of improper contact with Russian government officials by Trump campaign advisers represent a serious issue that should be investigated. Four in ten think the allegations are more of a distraction.
These opinions also split sharply by party lines, with 86 percent of Democrats saying the allegations are serious. And while a majority of Republicans say the allegations are more of a distraction (78 percent), a sizable 17 percent say they are a serious issue.
Among those Americans who say that the allegations are a serious issue, 83 percent are less confident that the Russian investigation will be conducted fairly after Comey’s unexpected firing.
Trump addressed his decision to can Comey in an exclusive interview with Lester Holt airing tonight on NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt.”
"He's a showboat, he's grandstander, the FBI has been in turmoil," Trump said of the former FBI director. "You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that."
Asked by Holt if by firing Comey he was trying to send a message to his successor to "lay off" the investigation into Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 election, Trump said, "I'm not."
"If Russia did anything, I want to know that," Trump said.
The NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll was conducted online from May 10 through May 11, 2017 among a national sample of 3,746 adults. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from the nearly three million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. For full results and methodology, click here.