A few caveats before we get to the unmistakable polling trend against impeachment: First, many of the data points highlighted below were gathered before last week's testimony, so public sentiment could shift back in a pro-impeachment direction once the impact of testimony from the last few witnesses -- Amb. Gordon Sondland in particular -- gets baked into the numbers. Second, although the public hearings are likely over, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is holding out the possibility for more. It's conceivable that various revelations could still emerge that might color voters' views of this question, perhaps during a potential Senate trial. But I suspect that Democrats have likely taken the cleanest, hardest shot they've got. If anything, the upcoming drip, drip, drip of information could benefit Trump, including the Horowitz report and any Burisma/Biden-related theater Senate Republicans may choreograph.
In other words, the waters could very realistically get further muddied in such a way that turns more voters against the proposition of impeaching and removing an American President from office for the first time in our nation's history. We've known that battleground state voters have been highly skeptical of this prospect from the get-go, a reality that was further confirmed by a Wisconsin poll released late last week. But it very much looks like after an initial spike in support for this process as the Ukraine matter took shape, as that process has unfolded, impeachment fever has receded:
Support for impeachment in the 538 tracker now basically tied with opposition, and back to about the same place it was the beginning of October pic.twitter.com/phy3cAjRhj— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) November 23, 2019
As the infographic indicates, these are just the trends on the binary, yes/no question on whether President Trump should be impeached. It does not refer to removal, which is generally a bit less popular than 'mere' impeachment, and it does not include polling that offers respondents the types of alternative options that I think are actually quite useful in measuring public opinion on this overall issue. The key to the decline illustrated in the chart above? Independents:
"By massive margins, Independents say that the impeachment issue is “more important to politicians than it is to me” (62% to 22%) and “more important to the media than it is to me” (61% to 23%)." https://t.co/HjpIIQ51UN via @VanityFair— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) November 22, 2019
More details from The Hill:
Among independents in the FiveThirtyEight average, support for impeachment topped out at 47.7 percent in late October but has sunk to 41 percent over the past three weeks. YouGov is among the polls registering that decline, with independent support for impeachment dropping from 39 percent earlier this month to 35 percent now and opposition increasing from 35 percent to 40 percent. An Emerson University survey found an even more extreme flip among independents. In October, independents supported impeachment 48 percent to 35 percent in Emerson’s polling. In the new poll released this week, independents opposed it by a 49 percent to 34 percent margin.
A source familiar with the White House legal team says they are not convinced that the House of Representatives will ultimately vote to impeach the president (in addition to believing that it shouldn’t, and that impeachment is not in the interest of the American people).— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) November 22, 2019
Intriguing, but I don't buy it. It would be a political debacle for Pelosi to have finally relented and given this drama the green light, only to fall short of the votes she needs to pass articles of impeachment in a Democratic House -- especially after the center-left consensus after last week was that the evidence was "overwhelming," and that 'they nailed him.' She didn't come this far to lose, and she's a ruthless vote-whipper, so I'd still bet that impeachment is coming. But it may be a tight vote, with a significant number of Democratic defectors, with only ex-GOP Congressman Justin Amash quasi-crossing party lines in the other direction (if Dems couldn't convince retiring moderate Will Hurd, they're probably not going to get any Republicans).
The likeliest scenario remains, in my mind: A fairly narrow passage of articles of impeachment, followed by a relatively swift Senate trial (but perhaps not so swift), resulting in an acquittal. Fully two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of removing a sitting president from office; I'd be surprised if this Senate produced 50 yeas. I'd put the over/under at 47, and would be inclined to take the under, at this stage. I'll leave you with three items: (1) Right-leaning New York Times columnist Bret Stephens coming out for impeachment, in a reversal from his previous position:
This, from Bret Stephens, is so good —-> pic.twitter.com/4iKWtHjhFT— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) November 23, 2019
(2) An X-factor on the public opinion front, as (now formally-declared presidential candidate) Mike Bloomberg buys up staggering amounts of airtime and virtual real estate to hammer Trump (perhaps he's doing so to ingratiate himself with the Democratic electorate, and is availing himself of the lower ad rates for candidates). But vulnerable Democrats are well aware that Republicans are heavily engaged on this front, too. (3) A passing suggestion that if anxious Democrats are looking at the polling move, and are truly having second thoughts about impeachment, perhaps there's another course of action worth considering.