Some of the best polling news Trump has received in awhile, and ironically it comes from his friends at the New York Times.
Compounding the irony, some of the worst polling news he’s received this year came last week from … Fox News. Impeachment makes for strange bedfellows.
Some polls, like Fox’s, will tell you that Americans support impeaching and removing the president on balance. That’s noteworthy but the leadership of both parties will pay closer attention to what swing states think for obvious reasons. The Times wanted to know how the Democrats’ impeachment push was doing in the six states most likely to decide the next election — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona. They discovered that voters there do support the impeachment inquiry, by a 50/45 margin.
But when you ask how many are ready to take the fateful next step and remove Trump based on what’s currently known, a small but significant minority of seven percent switches sides. Impeachment/removal polls at just 43/53. Wha’ happened?
The Times’s Nate Cohn dug into the numbers to find out who those seven percent are.
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.
I would not have guessed that some younger adults, a famously left-leaning group, would be more hesitant to remove Trump than others in the contingent that supports an impeachment inquiry. Another interesting bit of data from Cohn:
That trend is also true among Democrats specifically, a group that otherwise favors impeachment and removal overwhelmingly. Among Dems overall, 83 percent want Trump out. But among Dems who are following the Ukraine story “not very closely,” 21 percent oppose impeachment.
Which way does all of that cut for Pelosi? Before you answer, read this NBC piece about how House Democrats are preparing to present their impeachment case to the public. The key words are “abuse of power.”
House Democrats are zeroing in on a framework for their impeachment case against President Donald Trump that will center on a simple “abuse of power” narrative involving the president’s actions regarding Ukraine, according to multiple people familiar with the deliberations…
[O]ne person familiar with the strategy said “abuse of power” when it comes to Ukraine is the “big point that Pelosi has been hammering home” and the umbrella under which “this all fits to connect it and help the public understand.”…
Pelosi is also considering a separate article on obstruction or contempt of Congress related to the administration’s blanket rejection of subpoena requests for documents and witnesses related to its inquiry into Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to multiple sources involved in the deliberations.
The Ukraine quid pro quo and the White House’s refusal to comply with Democratic demands for evidence will all go under the “abuse of power” heading. Looking again at Cohn’s data, though, I wonder if “abuse of power” might be especially unpersuasive to that stubborn seven percent that’s so jaded about politics that they’re inclined to see Trump’s behavior as business as usual in Washington. Seems to me that that group might logically demand something more — probable cause of an actual federal statutory crime, for instance, or strong evidence that Trump himself was sufficiently aware that the Ukraine business was shady that he took steps to conceal his motives — in order to distinguish what he did from normal Beltway scumbaggery. Think of all the ways the average politician abuses his power, man. Isn’t Pelosi abusing her power when she serves special interests and lobbyists instead of the public?
As others have noted, the sheer cynicism of a political culture capable of electing Trump as a sort of purgative might also be what rescues him from impeachment in the end.
In fact, peek into the crosstabs and you’ll find that a plurality of all Americans agrees that what Trump did was “typical” of politicians, not something extraordinary. How do you sell an “abuse of power” narrative in those circumstances?
On the other hand, the fact that the people who are following the impeachment saga the least closely right now are also the people who are least likely to support it suggests that there may be room for Democrats to grow their support here. Cohn notes elsewhere that impeachment polling lately has been flat after an initial burst of enthusiasm when the first bombshells about Trump and Ukraine began being reported. But maybe that’s because the news itself has plateaued; right now there’s little to report apart from the secretive questioning of witnesses being conducted by Adam Schiff’s committee. That is, the “not following closely” group has had no compelling reason to start following the story closely over the last weeks. But obviously that will change once the articles of impeachment pass, and it will change in a big, big way once the trial of Donald J. Trump is being held on C-SPAN for hours each day in December. Many more Americans will soon be following the Ukraine matter more closely than they have been, whether they want to or not. What happens to the numbers on removal once they are?
You could turn that question around, though. Instead of assuming that following the story closely is leading people towards support for removing Trump, it may be that preexisting support for removing Trump is leading people to follow the story closely. If you’re a Trump fan, it stands to reason that you wouldn’t be eager to follow the Ukraine story closely to this point. If you’re already predisposed to ignore unflattering news about the president because you like him and think his enemies are out to get him, how likely is your opinion to change after an impeachment trial realistically? We may be looking at the same 43/53 swing-state split two months from now that we’re looking at today.
And look: For impeachment purposes, there’s arguably no difference between 53/43 in favor of removal and 43/53 against. Senate Republicans aren’t going to remove the president based on a margin as slim as that either way. The significance of Cohn’s results is that impeachment may not be much of a club for Democrats in next fall’s election either. At a minimum, what they want from this process is an effective talking point they can use to beat Trump at the polls. “Republicans in the Senate didn’t have the guts to oust the president, but the polls show that swing-state voters disagree with them and fully intend to correct that mistake in November.” Per the Times, swing-state voters do not disagree. If this really does settle as a 43/53 issue in places like Michigan, we may not hear the Democratic nominee hammering impeachment on the trail much next year. In which case, what will Dems have gained from this?