Public opinion is nearly unchanged on Trump’s impeachment

Only independents show signs of movement

Jerry Cornfield

Jerry Cornfield

OLYMPIA — What will you feel when the U.S. House of Representatives votes to impeach President Donald J. Trump?

Relief, satisfaction, frustration, anger?

Maybe nothing at all?

Whatever emotion, it’s likely to be much the same as you felt last week when majority Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee unveiled the articles of impeachment they say warrant the 45th president’s removal from office.

Attitudes among the public on impeachment are pretty hardened across the country. Reading the eight-page resolution containing the Democrats’ allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress isn’t going to sway many hearts on the subject. Nor do political observers expect many minds will be changed when this chapter of the impeachment saga ends with the House vote and a new chapter begins in the Senate.

“My guess is that Democrats will feel better, Republicans will think it is a miscarriage of justice, so … basically everyone will feel the same as they do now,” said Steven Horn, a political science instructor at Everett Community College who’s been discussing different plot twists in his classes.

He said he’s been keeping watch on approval and disapproval ratings for the president and the House as the drama has played out.

“So far the impeachment process doesn’t seem to be moving those numbers,” he said. “I take that as indicating we’re all in our partisan silos, interpreting what happens according to our party affiliations.”

Over at FiveThirtyEight.com, they’ve been tracking opinions of everyday folks on impeachment for a few months. What they do is mesh together results from polls conducted by several recognized outfits. The outcome is a broader and deeper analysis of perspectives at any one point in time.

In March, in polls that asked if Congress should start the impeachment process, 55.6% said “Nope” and 38.5% said, “Get going.” Perspectives shifted in mid-September as details of Trump’s dealings with Ukrainian leaders, including his phone call with the president, became topics of national discussion. As of Dec. 10, 52.4% now say they support the process getting underway while 42.3% did not.

But it doesn’t mean all of them want Trump booted.

Poll

In surveys that asked whether the president should be impeached and removed, support stood at 45.3% in March and 47.7% last week. On the other side, opposition to impeaching Trump stood at 43.2% in March and 45.0% on Tuesday.

When broken down by political affiliation, the desire for impeachment has climbed among Democrats, fallen among Republicans and risen slightly — from 41.7% to 44% — among independents.

A few more days and a dramatic House vote aren’t expected to alter any of those trends.

“My inclination is that it’s not going to change too much in terms of public support for removal from office since support for Trump has been in such a narrow range throughout his entire presidency,” said Travis Ridout, a professor of government and public policy in the School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at Washington State University. His focus is American politics, elections, media and politics, and political behavior.

“The best chance of opinion change is among the few independent voters who don’t like Trump but think impeachment is a bridge too far,” Ridout said. “Actual impeachment might bring home the historical gravity of the situation and lead them to support removal. But I suspect that wouldn’t happen to too many people.”

Republicans are in charge in the U.S. Senate where there’s supposed to be a trial. It takes a two-thirds vote to convict and remove the president.

We’ll see how people feel when a verdict is issued.

Then next November, we’ll see how those feelings translate in the election.

Jerry Cornfield is a political reporter for the Daily Herald in Everett, a Sound Publishing newspaper. Cornfield can be contacted at 360-352-8623 and at jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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