By Chris Kahn
(Reuters) – When Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on Wednesday about his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, a key part of the U.S. public appears likely to tune out – Republicans.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday, only 18% of Republicans said they planned on watching the former special counsel’s testimony when it is broadcast live on the major U.S. television networks.
Sixty percent of Republicans said they would not watch and the rest were not sure.
The poll also found that while 70% of Republicans said they knew Mueller was scheduled to be questioned in front of two Democratic-led House of Representatives committees this week, only 31% said it was “very” or “somewhat” important.
Trump’s fellow Republicans have consistently backed him throughout his presidency, and their support has remained strong as Mueller’s team racked up convictions and guilty pleas from former members of Trump’s inner circle.
On Monday, Trump said he himself was probably “not going to be watching,” but added: “Maybe I’ll see a little bit of
Trump has attacked the Mueller investigation and the FBI inquiry that preceded it as a politically motivated “witch hunt” and repeated the words “No Collusion! No obstruction” in Twitter posts.
Mueller’s report said the investigation found insufficient evidence to prove Trump and his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia despite numerous contacts. The report did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump committed the crime of obstruction of justice, but did not exonerate him.
In a separate Reuters/Ipsos poll this month, 61% of Republicans said they did not believe Trump tried to obstruct the Mueller investigation. About 85% said they approved of the job he was doing, and the same number said he should not be impeached.
Mueller has said little publicly since he wrapped up his investigation four months ago. In May, he delivered a short statement to reporters in which he indicated that it was up to Congress to decide if the president should be impeached.
Democrats, who control the U.S. House, remain divided over whether to begin the impeachment process against Trump.
Tuesday’s poll found that the rest of the American population appeared more interested in Mueller’s testimony, although even many Democrats did not plan to see it for themselves.
Overall, the poll found that 55% of the public said they viewed Mueller’s congressional testimony as important, including 81% of Democrats and more than half of independents.
A smaller number, however, appeared interested in watching the former special prosecutor testify.
Among all U.S. adults, 28% said they planned to watch Mueller’s testimony on TV, including 44% of Democrats. About two in 10 independents said they would watch.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States from Friday to Monday. It gathered responses from 1,112 adults in the United States, including 487 Democrats and 414 Republicans. It had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 6 percentage points.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)