As governmental institutions go, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has traditionally had a reputation for being quite conservative. It’s therefore rather ironic that Republicans have soured on the bureau so quickly.
The latest survey from the Pew Research Center pointed to some striking results.
Overall public views of the FBI remain positive: 65% have a favorable opinion of the FBI, while 26% view it unfavorably. But since early 2017, the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents with a positive view of the bureau has fallen 16 percentage points, from 65% to 49%.
Today, Republicans are divided in their views of the FBI (49% favorable, 44% unfavorable). In January 2017, shortly before President Donald Trump took office, positive views of the FBI among Republicans outnumbered negative opinions by about three-to-one (65% to 21%).
Among Democrats and independents, views on the FBI haven’t changed much over the last decade or so. But among Republicans, attitudes have changed quickly.
Indeed, the Pew Research Center asked respondents for views on a variety of federal departments and agencies, and among Republicans, the FBI is roughly as popular as the Internal Revenue Service. Making matters slightly worse, more Republicans have a favorable view of the Environmental Protection Agency than the FBI.
And in case this isn’t obvious, the EPA and the IRS are not generally known for enjoying broad support on the right.
To be sure, there’s no great mystery to this dynamic. Donald Trump, only the third sitting president to face a criminal investigation while in office, has gone to great lengths to criticize the FBI, oust its leaders, and undermine public confidence in the bureau.
But what’s only now becoming clear is the success of the president’s campaign. Trump declared his dissatisfaction with the FBI, and many Republicans decided to follow the president’s lead.