Democrats are seriously considering a rapid impeachment of President Donald Trump, reportedly for “incitement of insurrection.” But while the Democratic caucus seems broadly unified behind a second impeachment, Americans are split.
According to six polls taken in the aftermath of a violent insurrection that saw Trump supporters storm the US Capitol on Wednesday, about half of Americans believe Trump should be removed from office — with Democrats and Republicans sharply divided on the issue along party lines.
Four of those recent polls asked simply whether Trump should be removed immediately from office:
- A PBS NewsHour/Marist poll of 875 US adults, taken January 7, found that 48 percent of respondents believed Trump should be removed from office before the end of his term on January 20.
- YouGov fielded a survey of 1,448 registered voters on January 6 — it found 50 percent believed it would be “appropriate” for Trump to be immediately removed from office.
- Axios/Ipsos found 51 percent of respondents said they want Trump immediately removed, in a poll of 536 US adults taken January 6 to 7.
- An ABC News/Ipsos poll of 570 US adults, taken from January 8 to 9, found 56 percent of respondents believe Trump should be removed immediately; 43 percent said he should not be.
But there are two processes through which Trump could be removed from office: impeachment, or through the 25th Amendment, which gives the vice president and the Cabinet the ability to strip a president deemed unfit for office of their powers.
Two other polls asked about these separately:
- A Politico/Morning Consult survey of 1,986 registered voters, taken January 6 to 7, found respondents preferred the 25th Amendment be used, with 49 percent of registered voters supporting that route, and 44 percent behind impeachment proceedings.
- Reuters/Ipsos, in a January 7 to 8 poll of 1,005 US adults, found 30 percent saying they believed Trump should be removed using the 25th Amendment and only 14 percent saying he should be impeached and removed by Congress.
Perhaps accounting for the lack of impeachment enthusiasm Reuters/Ipsos recorded is that respondents were asked which of a suite of options “comes closest to your opinion” about what should happen to Trump (a plurality — 43 percent — said Trump should be allowed to continue on as president until his term ends). Morning Consult’s pollsters, meanwhile, asked respondents first about their support for impeachment, and then, in a follow-up question, about their support for the 25th Amendment.
Overall, the preference both polls recorded for Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet to take action over Congress reflects the preferences of lawmakers as well.
As Vox’s Andrew Prokop reported on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have “both framed impeachment as a fallback plan. Their true hope, they said, was that Vice President Pence and the Cabinet would invoke the 25th Amendment.”
However, as Prokop explained on Thursday, any 25th Amendment removal would have to be led by Pence, who reportedly opposes doing so. Also complicating matters is the fact that the majority of Trump’s Cabinet would have to sign onto the plan — instead, a number of secretaries have chosen to resign.
This means that if Democratic lawmakers want Trump removed — and they have emphatically said they do — impeachment is their only option. They reportedly plan to proceed with it as soon as Monday, regardless of how the public feels about it.
They are likely to have the backing of most of their base, however. Because while there is a nearly even split on the question of Trump’s removal in recent polls, Democrats were found to be very much in support of immediately forcing Trump out of office.
Democrats support removing Trump from office. Republicans are against it.
As was the case ahead of Trump’s first impeachment hearings, support — and opposition to — the president’s removal falls largely on partisan lines.
The PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, for example, found that 84 percent of Democrats backed Trump’s immediate removal, while 15 percent of Republicans were for it (83 percent of Republicans said Trump should not be removed). Independents were split in that poll: 45 percent were for removal, and 51 percent were against it.
YouGov and Axios/Ipsos had similar results: YouGov found 83 percent of Democrats were for removal, and 85 percent of Republicans were against it; 86 percent of Democrats in Axios/Ipsos’ survey were for removal, and 80 percent of Republicans were against it.
When it comes specifically to impeachment, 72 percent of Democratic respondents, 14 percent of Republicans, and 38 percent of independents told Morning Consult Congress should start the process; 16 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Republicans, and 44 percent of independents said Congress should not.
Overall, there does seem to be slightly more Republican support for impeachment the second time around; for example, in a Politico/Morning Consult poll taken between September 24 and 26, 2019 — just after Pelosi announced the first impeachment inquiry into Trump — 10 percent of Republican voters said they backed impeachment.
Trump currently faces far more forceful condemnations from members of his own party than he did after attempting to coerce Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky into interfering on his behalf in the 2020 presidential election.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — who called Trump’s interaction with Zelensky “shameful and wrong,” but ultimately did not vote to convict Trump in the first impeachment trial — said Friday, “I want [Trump] to resign. I want him out. He has caused enough damage.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who has often been a critic of Trump, called on Pence and the Cabinet to remove the president through the 25th Amendment on Thursday.
Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, who also voted against conviction while saying “some of President Trump’s actions were inappropriate,” told Fox News on Saturday, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses.”
Most Republican lawmakers — like most of the Republicans surveyed recently — are sticking with the president. In the House and Senate, 147 lawmakers voted in support of the president’s lies about election irregularities, hours after those falsehoods forced them to evacuate amid the violent occupation of their workplace by Trump supporters. On Friday, Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “It is time to heal and move on.”
It is these lawmakers — rather than those like Murkowski or Toomey — who seem to reflect the sentiments of most Republicans, who recent polls suggest largely do not believe Trump is to blame for Wednesday’s insurrection.
Most Republicans don’t believe Trump has done anything to warrant impeachment
As Vox’s Sean Illing recently wrote, Trump, his allies, and right-wing media have successfully constructed an alternate reality that is inhabited not just by the Trump faithful, but by Republicans of all types.
For instance, Trump spent the months prior to the election sowing doubt as to whether the results could be trusted if he lost; he proceeded to endlessly claim the results were fraudulent when he did in fact lose; and those comments were echoed both by conspiracy theorists like former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell and members of Congress, the vast majority of whom still refused to admit Biden had won one month after the election concluded.
The results of that rhetoric were clear during the insurrection, but also show up in polling.
The YouGov poll, for instance, asked, “How much voter fraud, if any, do you think took place in the presidential election?”
The majority — 73 percent — of Republicans answered that enough fraud had taken place to “change who won the election,” while only 4 percent of Democrats said the same.
And the effects of this alternate reality seem as if they may be shielding both those who took part in the violence at the Capitol and the president who engendered it from broad Republican censure.
YouGov found that 45 percent of Republicans said they either strongly or somewhat support those who stormed the Capitol; 2 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of independents said the same. Marist pollsters found an even GOP split on the question of whether the insurrection was “mostly a legitimate protest:” 47 percent of Republicans said it was, and 47 percent said it was not; 3 percent of Democrats, and 25 percent of independents, believed the events to be a legitimate protest.
Trump and many of his close allies initially framed the violent takeover as legitimate. Trump adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump tweeted, then deleted, a message that referred to the insurrectionists as “American Patriots.” And after Republican lawmakers asked Trump to defuse what was then an ongoing occupation, the president filmed a message in which he repeated the lies that had whipped up his supporters in the first place before telling them, “We love you. You’re very special. ... I know how you feel.”
Since then, Trump has offered more measured statements, but has not taken responsibility for the death and destruction that took place Wednesday. And most Republicans seem to believe that he has no need to.
The PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found 51 percent of Republicans believe Trump bears no responsibility at all for the storming of the Capitol; and another 17 percent of Republicans said the president is “not very much” to blame for what happened. Democrats answered very differently, with 96 percent saying the insurrection was Trump’s fault; 62 percent of independents agreed.
YouGov found something similar, with 69 percent of Republicans saying the president was either not at all or not very much to blame, and 90 percent of Democrats saying Trump holds “a great deal” of the blame.
Instead of placing the insurrection at Trump’s feet, 52 percent of Republicans told YouGov that it was actually Biden’s fault; 42 percent of Republicans told Morning Consult the same — and 48 percent of Republicans told Morning Consult that Democrats in Congress were also to blame.
This is obviously not the case. The people who stormed the Capitol were clearly Trump supporters, many wearing Trump merchandise and carrying Trump flags. They were in Washington, DC, because Trump asked them to come to town for a “wild” rally. Once in the city, he told them, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol,” and said, “You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse said White House aides told him Trump was “delighted” at the carnage that followed.
The insurrection was the fault of Trump and of those who enabled him. It was not a legitimate protest. But that so many Republicans think otherwise means that the United States remains divided when it comes to understanding what happened Wednesday — and in deep disagreement about whether Trump should be impeached.