Though several new polls suggest that President Trump's approval rating has thus far been unaffected by the conclusion of the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian election interference, it's ultimately too early to gauge whether there will be any long-term benefit.
Last week, I noted that the conclusion of the Mueller probe and its finding of "no collusion" (per Attorney General William Barr) would test a theory about Trump's approval ratings. Trump's consistently low approval ratings have been unprecedented, but one popular theory in some quarters of the Right was that it was being artificially kept down by the cloud hanging over his presidency as a result of the Russian collusion investigation. Presumably, were this true, we'd start to see Trump's approval rating pick up once the cloud had been lifted.
So far, a handful of polls taken in the wake of the the Mueller announcement, show that there wasn't much of a change. As of this writing, Trump's approval rating stands at a net negative 8.9 percent in an average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics — which is nearly identical to a month ago. In a Politico/Morning Consult poll taken in the days after the Barr letter announcing "no collusion" and in the midst of Trump's victory lap, Trump's approval was a net negative of 13 points, which was the same as a poll taken 10 days earlier by the same firm. In the generally more favorable Rasmussen poll, Trump was a net negative of one point, compared with a net negative of four points earlier in the month — a difference that could easily be explained by standard fluctuations.
Meanwhile, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday found that just 29 percent of Americans found that Trump has been cleared of wrongdoing, compared to 40 percent who said they did not think he'd been cleared, and 31 percent who were unsure.
But this doesn't necessarily mean that it's the end of the story. For instance, it's possible that Americans are waiting for the release of the full Mueller report before reaching any conclusions based on a recap provided by a Trump-appointed AG. That sounds reasonable enough. It's also possible, presuming that the Mueller report's conclusions are largely consistent with the Barr letter, that the removal of the Muller shadow will only manifest itself in approval ratings over time as some holdouts start to warm up to Trump. The lowest-hanging fruit for Trump to pick up would presumably be traditional Republican voters who may be supportive of his policies but who were reluctant to go out on a limb to support him in case Mueller found anything.
Of course, it's perfectly possible (if not likely) that even the Mueller report's release won't change opinions much. Given the "choose your own adventure" news environment we live in, people who believe that the report vindicates Trump would be more likely to gravitate toward Fox News while Trump haters will seek out news outlets that focus on any embarrassing parts of the Mueller report, even if they stop short of actual criminal wrongdoing. Furthermore, even if his approval rating doesn't go up, another way of looking at it is that it also isn't going down, which probably would not have been the case had Muller unearthed some sort of bombshell that led to indictments of Trump's inner circle for collusion.
Ultimately, the safest assumption is probably that Trump's approval rating, which has been remarkably steady for over two years, is pretty baked in at this point. People like him or hate him, and that general view is likely to color how they view events, as opposed to the idea that they are tracking events with impartial eyes and changing their opinions of Trump in response to new developments.
Either way, it's going to take more time to get a sense of how the Mueller report's release will affect Trump politically.