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CNN's Toobin: I don't believe our own poll on impeachment

Pundits often question the accuracy of polls, but how often do they trash their own network’s poll? Jazz wrote about the latest CNN poll on impeachment earlier today, showing a decline in support for the effort as well as even greater skepticism about removal. CNN describes the result as “evenly split,” which is true, but it’s also true that it’s now underwater at 45/47 rather than 50/43.

That’s a five-point drop for impeachment over the past month, and a nine-point swing in the gap. And note well where it seems to have dropped the most, emphasis mine:

Support for impeaching Trump and removing him from office stands at 45% in the new poll, down from 50% in a poll conducted in mid-November just after the conclusion of the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearings. Opposition to impeachment and removal stands at 47% in the new poll, up from 43% in November. Support for impeachment and removal among Democrats has dipped from 90% in November to 77% now.

It’s worth noting that Democrats aren’t alone in declining support. Republican support for impeachment dropped by half in the CNN series over the past month, falling from 10% to 5%, and independents dropped slightly from 47% to 45%. By far, though, the greatest drop comes from Democrats in the CNN series.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin can’t believe his eyes — nor his own network’s pollster, who tries gamely to explain how surveys are conducted:

TOOBIN: Can I just say to my twin brother that I don’t believe that poll for one second.

HOST: What part?

TOOBIN: The 90 to 77 percent. I — you know, it’s just I don’t believe it, like it makes no sense that that number would change like that.

POLLSTER: [crosstalk] It’s a subset of the poll, and the margin of error when you look at just Democrats is like 6.7% in here. It’s not a wild swing, it’s just where the movement is in the poll. I don’t know what’s not to believe, that’s what — you call people up on the telephone and you get their information. You pump out a survey, this is what those we called told us.

TOOBIN: I get it, but life has shown[?] us that polls are sometimes wrong, and David, that poll is wrong. Just because I said so, okay?

What’s so tough to believe? In the intervening time since their prior poll, House Democrats completed their case presentation, and … it’s hardly robust. Some Democrats might be having second thoughts about pursuing an impeachment under these circumstances because they’re underwhelmed by the case made by Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler. They might still think there’s a case but that it’s a bad idea to push this when it has no chance of winning even a simple Senate majority, let alone the 67 votes required for removal. Or, perhaps, some Democrats paid close attention to Michael Horowitz’ testimony last week and are now revising their estimations of Schiff’s and Nadler’s credibility.

Besides, the CNN result falls into line with what other pollsters are seeing on impeachment, too. The 538 tracker has support leading opposition by less than a point in the aggregate, and RCP’s tracker has support trailing by less than a point. Given the overall direction of polling on impeachment, Toobin might prefer the “stalemate” described by the Washington Post about their latest survey with ABC News. That has its own issues, however:

On the eve of the House vote, 49 percent of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 46 percent say he should not. Those are essentially identical to findings at the end of October, when 49 percent favored impeachment and removal and 47 percent opposed. The latest poll also finds that regardless of whether Trump committed an impeachable offense, 49 percent say he improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, while 39 percent say Trump did not do this.

Among Democrats, 85 percent say Trump should be impeached and removed, while 86 percent of Republicans say he should not. Independents split 47 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. Republican support for impeachment has slipped from 18 percent in October to 12 percent today.

Stability in this case is overrated, of course. The point of the hearings for House Democrats was to move the needle on Trump’s removal to force Senate Republicans to treat this seriously. These numbers have barely moved in two months, not even in the assessment of Democrats’ handling of impeachment, with 50% in both surveys disapproving, with 51% of independents disapproving in both as well. That may well be what produced the decline among Democrats in CNN’s poll, even if Toobin’s first impulse is to blame the pollster rather than ask why House Democrats’ Schiff show flopped.