A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

Why impeachment polls matter so much to Trump

Why We Wrote This

Public support for Democrats’ impeachment efforts is rising, even among Republicans. If it continues, GOP members of Congress could defect from the president.

Evan Vucci/AP
President Donald Trump pauses as he speaks during an event on "transparency in Federal guidance and enforcement" in the Roosevelt Room of the White House Oct. 9, 2019, in Washington.

Dear reader:

One of the remarkable aspects of the turbulent Trump presidency has been his consistent position in the polls. No matter what happens, it seems, President Donald Trump’s job approval rating has averaged between the high 30s and mid 40s – not great, not terrible.

Now the impeachment question is front and center, and the trend line there is clear: A majority of Americans support the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and a near-majority now support impeachment itself – a call to remove him from office. The Senate would make the final decision on removal.

Support for impeachment has grown over the past two weeks, following the release of information that appears to show Mr. Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate 2020 rival Joe Biden, the former vice president. An analysis of polls by FiveThirtyEight shows a clear upward trend in support for impeachment, beginning Sept. 25.

Most important is the two-week trend among Republicans – from 8.1 percent supporting impeachment to 13.8 percent. That’s still small, but it’s significant. Republican members of Congress are watching their voters closely, and standing with the president – so far.
But that slight GOP shift toward favoring impeachment is key, and explains why House Republicans and the administration want an up-or-down vote on the inquiry sooner rather than later.

Overall, “public opinion is moving in favor of an inquiry fast,” tweets Jonathan Allen of NBC News. “If that continues, there will be more pressure on Republicans to vote in favor of an inquiry -- from constituents.”

A vote now means more Republicans would likely vote “no,” and a Republican who votes “no” on a probe can’t vote “yes” to impeach, Mr. Allen adds. “Votes locked in now.”

The only thing that would alter that calculation is a “huge change in the facts in evidence,” Mr. Allen says in another tweet.

That evidence may lie in the documents and testimony Democrats are trying to get, and which the Trump White House is refusing to supply. As a result, Mr. Trump faces a possible article of impeachment for obstruction.

Team Trump is focusing on process, and counting on a public that may not understand that impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. If Mr. Trump can convince his voters that he’s being treated unfairly by the Democrats, he may well stave off a collapse in his support. But if not, watch out.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

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