The glass-half-empty view for the White House: The numbers are obviously moving in a bad direction here.
The glass-half-full view: Even after a week of media hype and Ukraine revelations, the country is only evenly split on impeachment. Independents remain opposed on balance, albeit less opposed than they were a week ago.
Is 47/47 enough to make Senate Republicans sweat? Nah. But one clear result from this new survey from Quinnipiac and other surveys over the past week is that the public is, shall we say, “impeachment-curious.” They’re not ready to take the plunge on ousting Trump, but there’s consistently support for opening an impeachment *inquiry* into the Ukraine matter. Independents are willing to let Democrats sniff around here. But for the moment, at least, they’re not ready to do more than that.
There’s something for everyone there. For Republicans, there’s comfort in knowing that indies are on your side. For Democrats, there’s the fact that a clear majority of people who are paying “a lot” of attention to the Ukraine story support impeachment. (Although that result may confuse cause and effect. How many people paying close attention to this are doing so because they’ve hated Trump all along and want to see him gone?) A weird anomaly in the data is the fact that a plurality of people aged 65+ support impeachment, 49/46. Normally seniors skew Republican. I wonder if they’re more sensitive to alleged presidential abuses of power because they lived through Watergate. Or if they simply have a more solid educational foundation in civics than slightly younger adults.
Other results in this same poll will encourage Democrats. A majority of people think Trump has abused his power in office (54 percent, including 53 percent of independents), and by a margin of 50/40 Americans think Trump did something wrong in his interactions with Ukraine’s president (52 percent of indies agree). On the threshold question of whether Dems were right or wrong to open an impeachment inquiry, the public splits 52/45, with independents at 50/45. A CBS poll over the weekend found 55/45 support for an impeachment inquiry; another from Hill-HarrisX had it at 47/42, up 12 points since June. See what I mean by “impeachment-curious”?
But there are two ominous numbers for Dems in the new Quinnipiac data. One is that the share of Americans who “strongly” approve of Trump’s job performance has now reached 35 percent, easily the highest figure recorded all year. Thirty-five percent isn’t a lot in the abstract but it shows Republican support for Trump hardening as the pressure from impeachment builds. And if there’s any doubt about that, consider that 68 percent of Republicans also answered “no” to the question, “Do you think asking a foreign leader for help in defeating an opponent in an upcoming election is or is not a good enough reason to impeach a president and remove them from office?” Out-and-out solicitation of election help isn’t impeachable? Not to Republicans at this distinctive moment in time.
Here’s the other ominous number for lefties:
Americans may be impeachment-curious but they’re also highly skeptical of Democratic motives here, which they should be. How much support can Dems realistically build among independents if it’s already baked into their opinion that Team Blue is playing politics with all this?
Just as I’m writing this, CNN is out with its own poll on impeachment and removal. Their numbers, 47/45, are nearly identical to Quinnipiac’s, and the trend line is again bad for Trump. In May, this same question earned a 41/54 split. An interesting detail:
The change since May has largely come among independents and Republicans. About three-quarters of Democrats favor impeaching Trump and removing him from office, roughly the same as in May, while among independents, support for impeachment and removal has risen 11 points to 46% among independents and 8 points to 14% among Republicans.
The shift has also come notably among younger Americans. Sixty percent of those under age 35 now say they support impeaching Trump and removing him from office, up from 43% who felt that way in May, while support for the move among older Americans has held about even (42% now vs. 40% in May). Previous CNN polling on impeachment has not found such a stark gap by age.
And that shift is concentrated on the GOP side. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents under age 50, support for impeaching Trump and removing him from office has risen from 9% in May to 22% now, while views among older Republicans and Republican leaners have held about even with just 8% in favor of impeachment and removal from office.
Even a minor shift within Trump’s own party would turn impeachment into a majority proposition across the general population. He can’t afford to lose Republican voters.
One more CNN number, which contradicts the Quinnipiac finding: “Americans are more likely to say that most congressional Democrats back impeachment because they believe Trump committed impeachable offenses (49%) than because they are out to get Trump at all costs (38%).” We have one poll today telling us that Americans think Democrats are pursuing Trump for political ends and another telling us that they think Dems are chasing him on the merits. A lot depends on which one is correct. If Trump’s “witch hunt” defense isn’t as effective in this case as it was during Russiagate, he’s in bigger trouble than we think.