Two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that the House of Representatives would begin an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, new polling has shown that a clear majority of the American public supports such a move. According to a Washington Post–Schar School poll that was conducted between October 1–6, Americans by a 58-38 percent margin, with 43 percent being strongly in favor and 29 percent strongly against, feel that Congress has made the right decision in investigating the president via the impeachment process.
This represents bad news for President Trump, who has managed to maintain fairly steady approval ratings throughout his presidency, despite being inundated by a plethora of Congressional inquiries by the Democratic-led House and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. As the Washington Post poll shows, support for impeaching Trump never broke the 50 percent wall needed to signify majority backing among the public for an impeachment inquiry until now; it hit the previous high of 49 percent approval in August 2018 before steadily dropping to 37 percent in favor this last July. Now, among the 58 percent majority who find the inquiry appropriate, 86 percent believe that the House should go further and remove President Trump from office.
What could explain this dramatic turnaround in only two months? For one thing, the fact that the Democratic party is nearly united in favor of an impeachment inquiry into the president has likely had a rallying effect among Democrats, where eight in ten now support the inquiry, and even among some independents who were feeling disillusioned with the president’s behavior. This has occurred within Congress as well. The New York Times reports that 225 of the House’s 235 Democrats—as well as one independent, Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI)—have publicly announced their support for the inquiry, lending impeachment more credibility than when the Democratic House was divided on the issue. A simple majority in the House’s 435 members is needed to impeach the president, meaning that the members already supporting the inquiry are enough to kick the question over to the Republican-led Senate for a trial.
Then there is also the nature of the charges themselves. The public release of the intelligence community whistleblower’s report, as well as the transcript of President Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has sparked an intense media firestorm. Polling from Quinnipiac from September 30 shows that 55 percent of votes are “paying a lot of attention” to news about the president’s actions with Ukraine, while 28 percent are “paying some attention.”
Regarding public perceptions of how Congress is handling the inquiry, the Washington Post poll details that the American people are displeased with the GOP, while more ambivalent about the Democrats. 56 percent of the U.S. public currently disapproves of the way Republicans are responding to the impeachment inquiry, while 33 percent approve. Cracks in Trump’s support among Republican voters also appear to be forming: at least one poll has shown that 28 percent of Republicans now support the impeachment inquiry, while 18 percent would go further in removing him from office. That is a 21-point jump from polls conducted following the inquiry’s announcement on September 25, when 7 percent of Republicans supported the move. While other polling sets Republican support for the inquiry in the middle to upper-teens, it is clear that a perception shift has occurred among the president’s base, in addition to the public at large.
In contrast, Americans support the Democrats' handling of impeachment by a 49-44 percent margin. When asked how they felt about the Democrats’ impeachment actions more generally, 61 percent believed that the House is taking “a necessary stand against Trump’s actions,” while 53 percent said that Congress was “uphold[ing] their constitutional duties.” While 55 percent believed that Democrats were not “overreacting” to President Trump’s behavior, 50 percent of Americans did report feeling that impeachment was “distracting Congress” from other issues of concern. This shows that while the Democratic House has some leeway with voters, they must move quickly and continue producing deliverables that keep the public invested in the issue. Moreover, additional evidence of the president committing clear abuses of power or crimes must be produced for the House to keep the American people’s faith without moving to a more formal impeachment vote against the president.
Adam Lammon is an assistant managing editor at The National Interest.