Maybe the rope-a-dope strategy imposed on Donald Trump by social-media platforms paid off. Almost exactly a month after the Capitol riot that resulted in a second impeachment, fewer than half of Americans want Trump convicted in the US Senate next week — even though a clear majority holds him at least somewhat responsible for it. A new poll from the Associated Press and NORC suggests that people may just want to move on:
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that Trump bears at least a moderate amount of responsibility for the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including half who say he bears a great deal or quite a bit. Just over a third say he bears little to no responsibility. …
Fewer Americans, 47%, believe the Senate should vote to convict Trump after his impeachment trial, which begins next week. Another 40% say he should not be convicted, and 12% aren’t sure. Trump last month became the first president in the nation’s history to be impeached twice by the House, but it appears unlikely Democrats will have enough votes to convict him in the upper chamber.
Opinions on the trial fall along partisan lines, with more than 8 in 10 Democrats saying the Senate should convict, versus only about 1 in 10 Republicans. While those who believe he bears a large amount of responsibility generally believe he should be convicted, among those who say he is only moderately responsible, significantly more say the Senate should vote against than for conviction, 54% to 19%.
That last data bit speaks volumes about the tenor of this sample, and perhaps the country if this it’s representative. Those who passionately blame Trump fully for the riot and attack on Congress tend mainly to be Trump’s political opponents, and those are the most invested in Trump’s humiliation. Trump’s most loyal cadre of supporters don’t even want the trial, let alone a conviction. Everyone else, however, just wants this to be over with, even if they think Trump bears at least some responsibility for what happened on January 6th.
Now, imagine what the tenor would be if Trump was still on Twitter and/or Facebook. It wouldn’t feel over, at least, and it would probably create more pressure for some action to lock Trump out for good among this group that considers him somewhat responsible. The social media bans have imposed the kind of message discipline on Trump that might have won him the election had he imposed it on himself a few months earlier.
A closer look at the results (although not at the data, unfortunately) shows that the middle ground is still pretty small. Only 13% assign a “moderate amount” of responsibility to Trump for the riot. Fifty percent give him “a great deal” or “quite a bit,” while 36% say “only a little/none at all.” Among independents, however, the distribution is much more even — 35% “great deal/quite a bit,” 27% “moderate,” and 34% for little or none. Essentially, impeachment and conviction is a partisan food fight, and the nonpartisans aren’t all that invested in it.
Two more data points are of interest in this poll. The snap historical judgment breaks down along almost identical lines to the conviction question:
Half of Americans say that Trump was a terrible or poor president, 15% say he was average, and 36% say he was good or great. In comparison, 52% said Barack Obama had been a good or great president after his eight years in office, 20% thought he was average, and 28% described him as terrible or poor.
Suffice it to say that all this demonstrates is how silly it is to ask that question two weeks after the end of a presidency. It will take decades to see how this fully plays out. Finally, we have this:
Republicans had better start paying attention to independents on this issue. Especially after seeing how the “stolen election” argument worked out for them in Georgia. If they can’t get Republicans to turn out, they’d better start working on the reach among independents.