House Democrats turn the corner this week from second-hand hearsay testimony to academic debate in their drive toward impeachment. The question is whether American voters have joined the caravan, and a new Washington Post poll analysis provides the answer: nope. The needle hasn’t budged since the beginning of the hearings, although the Post is careful to call this “stable” rather than the more appropriate “stagnant”:
Impeaching Trump was clearly unpopular this summer, standing at 39 percent supporting and 48 opposing in a Washington Post average of nationally representative polls from June through late September. But later in September — after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the impeachment inquiry following a CIA whistleblower complaint about Trump’s request to the Ukrainian president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son — support jumped to an even split at 46 percent in support and opposition.
Since that initial jump, however, support for impeachment has been stable. The Post’s average of nationally representative polls conducted since the start of the House’s public hearings on Nov. 13 finds 47 percent of Americans support impeaching and removing Trump, while 43 percent are opposed. That level of support is little different from the 47 percent support in the two weeks before hearings began and 48 percent support earlier in October. …
Democrats and Republicans are mirror opposites on the issue, with an average of 86 percent of Democrats supporting impeachment, compared with 9 percent of Republicans. Democrats have grown more united in their support for impeachment since before the inquiry began, when polls showed roughly two-thirds supported impeachment. Among Republicans, an average of 87 percent are opposed, while 8 percent of Democrats say the same.
Aaaaand that’s one big problem for Democrats, but it’s not their only big problem. The point of public hearings was to move the public behind the effort, not to produce a “stable” outcome at the other end of them. Adam Schiff intended the hearings to convince the electorate that Congress had to take the extraordinary step of removing a president, producing a bipartisan consensus that would force the Senate to take this seriously. The only movement that Schiff produced was a slight deepening of the trench warfare that existed prior to the hearings, which is not exactly a surprise.
In fact, stability is the only good news from the Post’s analysis. A running aggregation at FiveThirtyEight showed a recent return to pre-hearing level support for impeachment at 49/44. At one point after the hearings, the gap had dwindled to less than a point. Even that narrows to 48/44 if removal is specifically mentioned. The Post makes much of an increase in support among independents in their aggregation, but that’s not as significant as they make it. Independents nationwide still slightly oppose impeachment, and this supposed movement of independents is seen nowhere in overall polling trends over the same period of time.
Bear in mind too that these are averages of national polling. The Post acknowledges that Schiff’s failed to make the sale in the states that really count for the 2020 election, both for the presidency and for the House Democrats’ new majority:
Battleground state polls show a more negative reaction to the impeachment inquiry, signaling more risk to Democrats and potential benefit for Trump. An average of 44 percent supported impeachment, with 51 percent opposed, averaging across a dozen October and November polls in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin. That’s a flip from an average of national polls that finds support for impeachment narrowly edging opposition, 47 percent to 43 percent.
That’s not among independents, but the overall populations. The Post also notes that Trump’s approval ratings have barely fluttered throughout the hearings, yet another sign that Democrats failed to make their case. This comes after weeks of televised hearings in which the media has lauded second-hand hearsay and State Department gossip as devastating to Trump.
Even with the advantages of controlling the process and having a highly sympathetic media environment, Democrats have failed to gain any support at all for their impeachment project. If they continue to pursue impeachment and removal after this, those voters opposing impeachment in key swing states are likely to get angrier and angrier. And their all-but-certain failure to remove Trump will almost certainly disillusion and depress the rest right where House Democrats need them the most.
So what are Democrats to do with their failure? Er … how about the hair of the dog?
House Democrats are debating whether to expand articles of impeachment to include charges beyond abuse of power in the Ukraine controversy, setting up a potential internal clash as the party races to impeach President Trump by Christmastime.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee and other more liberal-minded lawmakers and congressional aides have been privately discussing the possibility of drafting articles that include obstruction of justice or other “high crimes” they believe are clearly outlined in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report — or allegations that Trump has used his office to benefit his bottom line.
The idea, however, is running into resistance from some moderate Democrats wary of impeachment blowback in their GOP-leaning districts, as well as Democratic leaders who sought to keep impeachment narrowly focused on allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely.
Voters will see this for what it is — a desperation move after Schiff’s failure to move the needle. Furthermore, that will require more hearings, more demands for due process, and extend the nonsense well into the 2020 primaries. One can only imagine what Senate Republicans will do with the process if the House starts adding on previously unaired and undebated charges at this late stage of their rushed process.