New Poll With Better, Nuanced Questions: Voters Remain Highly Skeptical of Impeachment

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Posted: Oct 30, 2019 1:05 PM
New Poll With Better, Nuanced Questions: Voters Remain Highly Skeptical of Impeachment

A few weeks ago, we highlighted a poll on impeachment that departed from the typical binary choices that have  typically been presented to voters.  In most polling on this subject, respondents are asked whether they favor or oppose the impeachment inquiry, then whether or not the support removing the president from office.  When presented with those two options on those two questions, we see that a clear nationwide majority -- or at least a plurality -- supports the investigation (a supermajority say that the White House should cooperate with it), while views are more or less evenly split on removal.  But the CBS News poll we wrote about offered a "too soon to say" choice on impeachment, which was selected by 20 percent of respondents.  The rest were divided (42/38) on whether or not President Trump deserves to be impeached.  

A brand new survey from Suffolk University and USA Today also offers Americans more nuanced options on impeachment, and unsurprisingly generates more nuanced answers.  It turns out that when impeachment is merely one of several choices on the menu, it's significantly less popular than X vs. Y polling would suggest.  I'd add that none of this is great for the president, of course, but this snapshot of public opinion is far less bleak than much of the pro-impeachment media would have you believe.  A few key findings, summarized below the Washington Examiner's Byron York:

Looking inside the results, there are some major differences based on party, gender, race, and more. Seventy percent of Democrats said the House should vote to impeach, while just 8% of Republicans and 22% of independents favored an impeachment vote. Twenty-one percent of Democrats favored more investigation but not impeachment, while 15% of Republicans and 34% of independents agreed. And just 8% of Democrats favored dropping the House investigations altogether, while 71% of Republicans and 36% of independents favored the no-more-investigations option...At the moment, according to Suffolk, there is a bare majority that does not believe Trump should be impeached for the phone call — which, of course, is the heart of the Democrats' impeachment effort. The number that believes the call is an impeachable offense, 38%, is well below what could be called a groundswell. The 10% who haven't decided are important. The Suffolk numbers suggest many Americans hold complex views of the Trump impeachment. Some are fine with the continued investigation, although large numbers don't believe they have yet seen an impeachable offense. 

If you add up those who say that (a) Congress should either drop its probes of Trump altogether, and (b) those who say Congress should keep pressing for information but shouldn't impeach the president, you have a 59 percent majority against impeachment.  On the other hand, the percentage of American people who share Trump's view that his call with President Zelensky was perfectly appropriate, and that there's no cause for an investigation, is mired in the 30's -- representing Trump's core base, and basically nobody else.  Political independents, a crucial swing group that will determine the 2020 election, are particularly skeptical of impeachment and are far more likely to land on the 'middle ground' options (i.e., 'investigate but don't impeach,' and 'wrong but not impeachable').  

Also, by 19 percentage points (37/56), voters predict that the House of Representatives will not ultimately impeach Trump.  I think that's wrong, but very interesting.  As for a potential Senate conviction, the people's prediction is a landslide (19/73) against removal.  The forthcoming open hearings (I recommend this analysis) will be important, as public opinion has not fully calcified yet, with many Americans still unsold in either direction.  But the prevailing media notion that we're experiencing an unambiguous groundswell in favor of uprooting President Trump from office over the Ukraine scandal is misplaced.  The numbers rehearsed above, which are more useful than the raft of more simplistic 'yes-or-no' polling, demonstrate quite a bit of gray area and hesitancy when it comes to the draconian and dramatic prospect of undoing an election by throwing a president out of office, mid-term.  Meanwhile, here's another data point out of New Hampshire that suggests even if impeachment is disproportionately popular in populous blue states, it's much less palatable among swing state electorates:


Relatedly, I'd encourage you to check out this sensible but futile column from Jonah Goldberg (alas, this president never apologizes, even when he absolutely should), as well as an interview I conducted with Andy McCarthy yesterday, in which the former federal prosecutor argued that the White House's official lines in all of this ('perfect' call, no quid pro quo's) have been foolish and counterproductive.  For what it's worth, I think this is both accurate and approximately descriptive of where I am, personally, right now:  


I think it's obvious that President Trump abused his power here, and that his shadow foreign policy cronies were up to no good.  That Trump likely doesn't even realize what he did was wrong is yet another poor reflection on his ethics and fitness for the exceptionally powerful job he holds.  I'm open to more evidence -- a firmly-established quid pro quo connecting military aid to Ukraine with a Biden investigation form their government would change my calculus -- but at this moment, I don't believe impeaching and removing a duly-elected president is the appropriate outcome here.  Especially absent a clear-cut 'high crime,' and with a general election one year away.  Americans elected a reckless and unethical man in 2016.  He has proceeded to do some reckless and unethical things.  If voters have had enough, and prefer the alternative, they can express as much at the ballot box in almost exactly 12 months.

I'll leave you with this: Many Congressional Republicans would likely be terrified to even explore this option, given the attitudes of much of the base and the president's volcanic reactions to internal dissent, but a formal Congressional censure seems like a fully justified and roughly proportional form of recourse, under these circumstances.  I'd guess it isn't being discussed because Democrats want more, and Republicans don't want to ruffle Trump and his supporters by admitting that he engaged in grave misconduct.  How might impeachment/removal vs. censure poll?