When it comes to President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey or anything remotely connected to Trump and Russia, it's hard to sift through the noise and see what matters to the average American. Instead of trying to drink water from a firehose, an apt metaphor for what's required to follow these stories, many Americans just tune out these issues altogether.
Typically, I'm inclined to think most Americans generally don't care about "inside-baseball" politics, political or policy debates that don't affect their daily lives, much less the palace intrigue that seems to captivate much of Washington. The Russia and Comey issues fall into the former basket, but it doesn't mean Americans don't care.
Let's take a look at what polls say Americans think.
First, there's an NBC News poll that showed about one-third of Americans don't approve or disapprove of Comey's firing. That figure rises to one-half for independents, the political middle who decide major elections. (Granted, this was before it was reported that Trump supposedly asked Comey to lay off Michael Flynn.) That same poll found only a 1 percentage point drop in Trump's approval rating, implying that those who already hated Trump disapproved of Comey's firing and vice versa for those who already loved Trump.
Nor was that poll an outlier. A Morning Consult/Politico poll found that 29 percent of voters couldn't say whether the Comey firing was appropriate or inappropriate.
As for Russia, Trump might be in a little more trouble: A recent Ipsos/Reuters poll, taken before former FBI Director Robert Mueller was chosen as a special counsel to lead the Russia probe, found that 60 percent of Americans agree "that Congress should launch an independent investigation into communications between the Russian government and the Trump campaign."
Still, that poll just shows people want an investigation to find more information — not necessarily that they disapprove of how Trump is handling relations with Russia, that any campaign communications with Russia occurred or were inappropriate or that Trump should be impeached over corrupt Russian connections.
Either way, Trump has a general problem showing that he's a competent leader. In Gallup's polling on what Americans mention as the most important problem facing the nation, roughly 10 percent of Americans named "dissatisfaction with government/poor leadership" as the biggest problem in November 2016-January 2017. Since February, though, that number has shot up and now hovers around 20 percent.
The only good news for Trump is that fewer people are naming the economy as their number-one concern, likely because economic confidence, especially among Republicans, has jumped since he won the election.
Then, of course, there's anecdotal evidence. For what it's worth, the Washington Examiner's Salena Zito spoke to a staunch Hillary Clinton voter in Paul Ryan's district who wasn't all that worried by Comey's firing. "If we are being really honest, the Hillary thing last summer got [Comey] hated by my party, then his wishy-washiness in between — followed by the last-minute jab at Clinton — caused, I think, most people to lose trust in him," the voter told Zito.
Bottom line: Yes, Americans care about Comey and Russia, but it's not keeping them up at night. If the 2020 election were held today, those issues alone probably wouldn't be enough to switch voters from Trump to his opponent. But if more negative information comes out and more voters view "poor leadership" as the country's biggest problem, it could cause Trump some issues.
Jason Russell is the contributors editor for the Washington Examiner.