Emerson: Impeachment support drops as independents flee

If this was just one poll, it might have been a curiosity, but it’s not. The latest Emerson national poll shows a surprising bounce-back for Donald Trump, both in popularity and in competitive position, from a month earlier. Voter support has dropped for impeachment in that period, while Trump now leads most Democrats in national head-to-head polling — an unusual outcome in polling this year, although Trump does much better in swing-state surveys.

It’s not for a lack of engagement, either. The hearings are attracting a following of sorts, with 69% of voters describing themselves as watching or following the events. It’s just that Adam Schiff doesn’t appear to have made the sale as his public hearings concluded, especially among independents:

A new Emerson poll finds President Trump’s approval has increased in the last month with 48% approval and 47% disapproval, a bounce from 43% approval in the last Emerson National poll in October. Support for impeachment has flipped since October from 48% support with 44% opposing to now 45% opposed and 43% in support. The biggest swing is among Independents, who oppose impeachment now 49% to 34%, which is a reversal from October where they supported impeachment 48% to 39%.

The most fascinating part of the polling in this impeachment process has been its entrenched partisan nature. This poll is no different, although it does appear a bit narrower in some of those gaps. For instance, impeachment gets 22/71 support among Republicans, a shade higher than in some other polling, while among Democrats it’s 69/19 — not a terribly enthusiastic number, considering the circumstances.

Independents have been the key, and the fifteen point swap over the last month should concern Democrats greatly. This poll was conducted from Sunday to Wednesday, a period after two major hearing dates and encompassing all but yesterday’s testimony. Gordon Sondland’s testimony took place on the final day of this survey, which might mean that it missed a potential bump from the (overblown) media coverage of his revelations. But even Sondland’s testimony wouldn’t have likely prompted a restoration of 15 points among independents.

It’s not as if independents have flocked to Fox News, or even that most people are engaging through it, either:

A plurality (26%) is getting their information from Fox News, 24% are getting their information from 1 of the 3 network stations (ABC, NBC, CBS), 16% are watching CNN, 15% MSNBC and 19% are going somewhere else for their information.

The surprise on partisanship is how little there is of it on engagement. It seemed obvious that Democrats would follow the impeachment process closely, and they are at 75%, but so are 67% of Republicans and 62% of independents. At any rate, Fox may be leading the pack overall, but it’s not exactly dominating, even among Republicans. Just under half of Republicans following are primarily watching Fox (8% are primarily watching MSNBC, actually). Two-thirds of Democrats are evenly split between network news, CNN, and MSNBC, but 13% are tuned in to Fox.

However, only 19% of independents are primarily watching Fox. Twenty-six percent are watching network news, with 32% primarily watching “somewhere else,” presumably C-SPAN. (It’s a little odd that Emerson didn’t think to include C-SPAN in its media list, which is presumably where viewers go who don’t want running color commentary.) Whatever is happening to independents, it’s not because of media manipulation. Independents are the most likely to avoid commentary of all three political demos, it appears.

All of this has changed the presidential race too. Trump now leads two of the Democratic frontrunners and only barely trails Bernie Sanders:

The conclusion to this is that Schiff has failed to make his sale, a result that the FiveThirtyEight aggregate impeachment poll tracker corroborates. The head-to-head results suggests that Democrats may already be seeing the first signs of a public-opinion backlash, one that could get much worse if Democrats continue to press forward without reckoning with voter sentiment.

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David Strom 8:16 PM | July 17, 2024