With core supporters and opponents dug in, a crucial sliver of people support the inquiry but not necessarily removal.
by Nate Cohn, NY Times
Voters in the states likeliest to decide the 2020 presidential election support the impeachment inquiry that House Democrats began last month, but a majority still opposes impeaching President Trump and removing him from office, according to a New York Times/Siena College survey.
In the six closest states carried by the president in 2016, registered voters support the impeachment inquiry by a five-point margin, 50 percent to 45 percent. The same voters oppose impeaching Mr. Trump and removing him from office, 53 percent to 43 percent.
The survey depicts a deeply divided electorate in battleground states a year from the election, with the president’s core supporters and opponents exceptionally energized and unified. Yet at the same time, a crucial sliver of relatively moderate voters — just 7 percent of the electorate — support the inquiry without backing Mr. Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.
The findings suggest that public opinion has stabilized since shifting quickly against the president in late September, and it leaves American politics where it has been for some time: deadlocked, with neither side likely to face severe political costs for its position on the president.
Democrats have long feared that impeachment would alienate moderate voters. But in the pivotal states of Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Arizona, a majority of voters support the inquiry. Self-described independents back the inquiry, 51 percent to 43 percent.
Support for the impeachment inquiry is largely consistent with recent national surveys, which show registered voters backing the inquiry by an average of nine points over the last three weeks, or a margin four points higher than the one in the Times/Siena poll. In 2016, the six battleground states were about four points more favorable to Mr. Trump than the rest of the country was, a pattern that persisted in the 2018 midterm election.
The results suggest that the president continues to be stronger in the top battleground states than he is nationwide. This is keeping his narrow path to re-election alive and insulating him and his party from national political opinion — to an extent.
National surveys have been less consistent about the issue of removal. A few high-profile national surveys, including a Fox News poll criticized by the president, show a majority of voters support impeachment and removal. But many surveys have not shown support for removal.
An NBC/WSJ poll, for instance, found that adults opposed impeachment and removal by a six-point margin, 49 percent to 43 percent, nearly the reverse of Fox’s result of 51 percent supporting and 43 percent opposed. Other surveys — from Marist College, Quinnipiac, CNN/SSRS and Monmouth College — also found more opposition than support for impeachment and removal. The Times/Siena results are fairly consistent with those surveys.
A group that could be crucial to shifting the balance of public opinion is voters who say they support the inquiry but are not ready to support removing the president. This 7 percent slice of respondents tends to be younger — 33 percent are 18 to 34 — and nearly half are self-identified independents. They could prove tough for Democrats to convince: 51 percent say that the president’s conduct is typical of most politicians, perhaps suggesting that they hold a jaded view of politics that would tend to minimize the seriousness of the allegations against him.
Mr. Trump’s supporters from 2016 are nearly unanimous in their opposition to removing him. Over all, 94 percent of respondents who said they voted for him four years ago said they opposed his impeachment and removal. It is possible that Trump voters who have soured on him are less likely to divulge their 2016 preference to a pollster. (Crosstabs available here.)
Trump voters are not convinced that the president’s conduct was atypical for politicians in Washington. Only 11 percent of Mr. Trump’s 2016 supporters believe that his Ukraine-related conduct is worse than the conduct of most politicians, while 75 percent said it was typical.
Democrats and self-reported Hillary Clinton voters strongly support impeachment and removal, but they are divided by ideology and levels of political engagement.
Over all, 83 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Mrs. Clinton’s voters said they supported impeachment and removal from office, compared with 93 percent of Republicans who opposed.
Just 75 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats say they support impeaching and removing Mr. Trump, while 21 percent are opposed. Very liberal Democrats, on the other hand, are all but unanimous: 93 percent in favor and 4 percent opposed.
Much of the hesitation among Democrats comes from voters who say they aren’t following the news about impeachment very closely. Of these voters, 21 percent oppose impeaching and removing Mr. Trump.
Support for impeachment could grow as Democratic voters tune in; Democrats who are paying “very close” attention support impeaching Mr. Trump and removing him from office, 94 percent to 5 percent.
New developments could sway public opinion as well. The Times/Siena survey of 1,934 respondents had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points and was conducted from Oct. 13-20, largely before the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, acknowledged that aid to Ukraine was conditioned on an investigation of Democrats. (He later retracted those comments).
But more time doesn’t guarantee a shift in public opinion. The rapid increase in support for impeachment after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of the opening of the inquiry last month has clearly slowed and perhaps even ground to halt.
Paying close attention doesn’t ensure that voters will resolve to remove the president, either: Trump voters who say they’re following the impeachment news “very closely” oppose impeachment and removal from office, 97 percent to 3 percent.
Nate Cohn is a domestic correspondent for The NY Times The Upshot. He covers elections, polling and demographics. @Nate_Cohn