The first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump seem to have done little to sway opinion about whether the president ought to be impeached, according to the findings of two new polls.
Public opinion around impeachment has largely stabilized over the last month, but national polls by Morning Consult/Politico and SSRS/CNN show that a slight dip in support for impeachment that registered in surveys taken ahead of the hearings has been reversed. Support is once again consistent with the levels seen shortly after the announcement of the impeachment inquiry — pollsters in both new surveys found that 50 percent of respondents support both impeaching Trump and removing him from office.
The Morning Consult results represent a slight increase in impeachment support from its November 15-17 poll, which saw 47 percent of voters saying they thought Trump ought to be impeached and removed. It is worth noting, however, that the increase falls within the poll’s margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.
SSRS did not measure sentiment directly before the hearings, but its most recent findings mirror its October 17-20 polling, which found support for impeachment and removal to be around 50 percent.
I'd note that there are 2 slightly different stories that are consistent with the evidence:— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 26, 2019
1. The numbers have been steady for a while now and the small changes are just noise.
2. The numbers were moving very slightly against Democrats, but Sondland/last week reversed them.
Similarly, small increases were recorded in the number of respondents who believe Trump abused his power in pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Democratic Party and the family of Joe Biden, suggesting at least some Americans were swayed by the evidence presented by witnesses during the public hearings.
The change was slightly more pronounced in the work of SSRS, which saw a 4 percentage-point increase — 53 percent now believe Trump abused his office’s power, up from 49 percent in mid-October. Morning Consult’s results showed just a 1 percentage-point increase (to 49 percent).
House Democrats had hoped the hearings would make their case on impeachment for them, and this polling suggests that while they may have convinced some, opinions remain largely unchanged. Most respondents, it seemed, made up their minds before listening to what the witnesses had to say, and the polling suggests this is largely because partisanship in America reflects the partisanship in Congress.
Support for impeachment still falls along partisan lines
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the polls found that what respondents believe about impeachment depends heavily on political affiliation. Essentially, the results show that Democrats still overwhelmingly support impeachment, while Republicans are still overwhelmingly against it and independents remain split.
Morning Consult found 83 percent of Democrats want Trump impeached and removed, compared to 13 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of independents who said the same. (Eighty-four percent of Democrats, 13 percent of Republicans, and 48 percent of independents said the House should vote to impeach.)
SSRS found even stronger support for impeachment and removal among Democrats — 90 percent — and similar figures for Republicans (7 percent) and independents (40 percent).
Both firms found a slight increase (within each poll’s margin of error) in Democratic support from their last polls. As with the general increases, the changes were small — and more noticeable in SSRS’ sample — but ought to be encouraging to Democrats concerned about how the hearings affected their base.
Interestingly, a slight bump was recorded among Republicans too — 2 percentage points in Morning Consult’s numbers, and 1 percentage point in the SSRS poll.
In recent weeks, there has been much reporting about a decrease in support for impeachment among independent voters, something the president has celebrated on Twitter, retweeting allies like Rep. Mark Meadows who have pointed to this trend.
Meadows cited a November poll from Emerson College that found 34 percent of independents in support of impeachment, down 14 percentage points from the level of support registered in the college’s October poll.
Though that poll was something of an outlier, other polls tracked similar declines, usually around 4 to 6 percentage points.
Looking at the latest Morning Consult and SSRS polls, how independents are trending remains up for debate.
It is clear independents are split, but Morning Consult’s results found an 8 percentage-point increase in independents who believe the House should impeach Trump, and a 9 percentage-point increase in independents who believe the president should be impeached and removed, compared to the firm’s November 15-17 poll. Support for the impeachment inquiry itself also rose 4 percentage points among the independents surveyed by Morning Consult.
The SSRS findings paint a somewhat different picture, showing that impeachment and removal support among independents fell by 3 percentage points from October to now — though they do increasingly approve of how Democrats are handling the proceedings. In November, 51 percent of independents said Democrats “have properly exercised their constitutional powers” with the inquiry. A slightly different question was asked in October — whether respondents approved of the way Democrats were handling the inquiry — and at the time, 37 percent of independents said they approved.
House Democrats had hoped the public hearings would increase overall support for impeachment. These preliminary polls suggest the hearings did just that, but not to the degree some Democratic lawmakers may have wanted. Falling support for impeachment among independents might have been stopped (depending on which poll one looks at), but not to the degree with which Democrats who depend on broad ideological coalitions to win elections may feel comfortable. And the slight bump in support among Republicans is not enough to place any pressure on GOP lawmakers or Trump allies who have been vocal in their defenses of the president.
Nevertheless, Democratic lawmakers may take solace in the fact that support for impeachment is not “dropping like a rock” as Trump has claimed, but that — according to the SSRS results — they have higher support for impeachment than Republican lawmakers did when pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in 1998. That year, public support for impeachment reached a high of 29 percent.