By Chris Kahn
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Less than half of all Americans say President Donald Trump should be removed from office following his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Thursday, presenting a challenge for Democrats who will seek his ouster in a U.S. Senate trial.
The national online survey https://tmsnrt.rs/2EEmWPW, conducted in the hours after the House voted along party lines on Wednesday to charge Trump with abusing his office and obstructing Congress, found that the rare and highly contentious act by lawmakers has done little to change minds in a divided country.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, had been initially hesitant to bring impeachment charges against Trump because she was concerned there would not be enough public support.
Her party then sought to build that support through public hearings on the allegations that Trump withheld military aid for Ukraine and pressured its president to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, before Wednesday's historic impeachment vote.
When asked about the specific impeachment charges, 53% agreed that Trump abused his office and 51% agreed that he obstructed Congress.
Some 42% of respondents - most of them Democrats - said Congress should carry out its ultimate sanction and remove the president from office, as the Senate has the power to do.
Another 17% said Trump should be formally reprimanded with a congressional censure, 29% said they want the impeachment charges dismissed, and the rest said they did not have an opinion.
Trump, the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, now faces an impeachment trial early next year in the Senate. The Republicans who control the chamber have largely supported Trump throughout the House proceedings. The leader of the upper chamber, Senator Mitch McConnell, has said there is no chance of the president being convicted.
The public has remained sharply divided on impeaching Trump, who has denounced the impeachment hearings as a witch hunt and an illegal attempt to oust him from office.
Overall, only 44% of the American public said they approved of the House's handling of Trump's impeachment, while 41% disapproved.
And when asked how the impeachment left them feeling about the president, 26% said they are more supportive of Trump now, while 20% said they are less supportive, and 48% it has not changed their view one way or the other.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that a minority of Americans want the Senate to remove Trump and Democrats' potential to encourage more people in their party to vote Trump out of office in the November 2020 election.
"If Trump is acquitted and he does a victory lap, it really could be a minus for him," said University of Michigan political scientist Nicholas Valentino. "It could become a mobilizing tool for the Democrats."
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,108 people between Dec. 18-19 and has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points.
(Reporting by Chris Kahn, editing by Ross Colvin and Grant McCool)