Almost half of Americans disapprove of President Donald Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, according to a Gallup poll released Friday.
Trump firing Comey was less popular than former President Bill Clinton firing his FBI director, William Sessions, in 1993, Gallup says.
According to the poll, 46% of Americans disapproved of Comey's firing, while 39% approved. By contrast, 44% of Americans supported Clinton firing Sessions, with just 24% disapproving.
"The difference in public reaction to the Comey and Sessions firings does not merely reflect the popularity of the sitting president making the decision," the report reads. "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 has offered suspect, often-contradictory rationale for Trump dumping Comey last Tuesday amid widespread suspicion that the director's Russia investigation was the real catalyst for the sacking.
Clinton's reasons for canning Sessions were far less confusing: The Reagan-appointed FBI director was revealed to have abused his power and federal funds. And while Comey's termination was sudden, Sessions' firing followed months of investigation and thorough deliberation by the Clinton administration.
Though Democrats were more likely to favor Sessions' firing back in 1993, that decision was far less partisan than this week's termination, the Gallup poll shows: 79% of Republicans in the survey approved of Comey's firing compared to just 14% of Democrats. Independents were also against Trump's decision, with only 32% approving.
Trump apparently had not anticipated the negative reaction. He had believed axing Comey would garner bipartisan support and was reportedly "taken aback" to discover it didn't.
"Trump's letter of dismissal to Comey on Tuesday explained that the firing was intended to restore 'public trust and confidence' in the FBI," according to Gallup. "However, with more Americans disapproving of this dismissal than approving amid confusion over its reasoning, it is not clear if the change will have the intended effect."