Donald Trump’s very good week gets capped off by this first-out-of-the-gate poll on his Senate acquittal from Reuters. Approval of the verdict edges out disapproval — not by much, and within the margin of error, but it’s enough of an edge to claim victory. The rest of the results aren’t quite as sympathetic to Trump, however:
The national opinion poll found that 43% of U.S. adults supported the Republican-led Senate’s decision on Wednesday to keep Trump in office in a case stemming from his dealings with Ukraine. Forty-one percent opposed the acquittal and 17% said they were undecided.
When asked about Trump’s acquittal, 48% of respondents said Trump “is probably guilty of the charges against him, and the Senate is protecting him,” while 39% said the president “is probably innocent of the charges against him, and the Senate made the right decision to acquit.”
The results suggest that some respondents feel that even if Trump did something wrong, it was not enough to warrant his removal from office.
That’s definitely the impression left by the data, but that has its own limits too. By and large, not a lot of Americans are letting Trump off the hook. Overall, more people believe that impeachment and a trial were “the right thing to do” regardless of the outcome, 49/41, and 35/30 among those who feel strongly about it. They also feel it was the right thing to do even if it strengthened Trump politically, although that’s a bit narrower — 45/42, and 27/28 on the “stronger” responses.
That latter question is interesting for the difference in the partisan demos. Democrats agree with the impeachment/trial strategy 77/18 even if it failed (60/8 among those who feel strongly), but that shifts a bit when it comes to strengthening Trump. Democrats still support the strategy but by 67/25 overall and 41/11 among those who feel strongly. It’s worth noting that independents break 46/43 on the first question and 40/44 on the second. Democrats might still pay a price for pursuing a quixotic impeachment, especially if Trump continues to gather strength after it. Maybe not a huge price, but the numbers among independents and the decline in enthusiasm in their base should be somewhat concerning.
On other questions, the news isn’t quite so good for Trump, nor is it all that bad. Pluralities would have convicted Trump on both articles — 42/35 on abuse of power, 40/34 on obstruction, neither of which are dramatic splits. Between thirteen and sixteen percent would have chosen censure rather than impeachment, both overall and in all three partisan demos, a result that further waters down the argument for conviction. It’s easy to read these as pluralities opposed to convictions when that option is included (42/48 and 40/48, respectively).
What is clear is that Democrats failed, and failed badly, at making a consensus case for Trump’s removal. That wasn’t just a failure on Capitol Hill, either, nor was it just a case of Senate Republican circling the partisan wagons. Democrats didn’t even get a majority of Americans supporting their effort to remove Trump from office, a stunning failure that shows how empty this exercise has been from the start. The removal of a president between elections should only take place when a large consensus exists for that extraordinary remedy, and Democrats failed to generate it.
This final look at 538’s polling tracker on removal tells the story just as well as this Reuters poll does:
It’s a complete and utterly predictable failure. And hopefully a lesson to future Congresses, too.