Comey firing nets far more negative reaction than 1993 FBI firing
Forty-six percent disapprove of the firing, 39% approve and the remaining 15% express no opinion.
That reaction is far more negative than the one Americans had the last and only previous time a president fired his FBI director.
In July 1993, 44% of Americans approved and 24% disapproved of Bill Clinton's removal of William Sessions. Thirty-two percent did not have an opinion.
Gallup measured U.S. adults' reaction to Comey's removal in Gallup Daily tracking May 10-11, commencing one day after Trump informed Comey he was being dismissed.
The difference in public reaction to the Comey and Sessions firings does not merely reflect the popularity of the sitting president making the decision.
Trump has averaged 41% job approval in the three days since firing Comey, and that matches Clinton's 41% approval rating at the time he fired Sessions in July 1993.
The context for the firings may be the greater factor. Comey's firing has been more controversial than Sessions' given the confusion swirling around Trump's reported reasons for letting the director go.
The White House initially said Trump fired Comey at the recommendation of his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions because of Comey's alleged mishandling of last year's FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server.
However, Trump has since offered two competing explanations. One is that he thinks Comey was acting like a "showboat" and had lost the confidence of his staff.
The other is because he felt Comey's investigation into possible links between Trump associates and Russian meddling in the 2016 election was an inappropriate effort to discredit Trump's victory.
Clinton likely sparked less partisan reaction with his firing of Sessions because it was a fairly uncontroversial move made after the Justice Department issued a report raising serious ethical questions regarding Sessions' taxes and possible misuse of government property. ■