WASHINGTON – As a historic week begins, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds Americans closely divided on whether the House of Representatives should impeach President Trump. A narrow majority opposes a conviction by the Senate that would remove him from office.
In the wake of combative impeachment hearings, those surveyed oppose by 51%-45% a Senate vote to convict Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Though those results may be sobering – almost half of Americans support removing the president from office – they are a bit better for him than the survey's findings in October, when Americans split 47%-46%.
The findings underscore how durable Trump's support has been even in the face of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that he used military aid and a coveted Oval Office meeting to pressure the president of Ukraine to announce investigations into one of Trump's political rivals.
"I feel like every person has their faults and failures," says Amy Locklear, 45, a retired teacher and Army veteran from Maxton, North Carolina, who was called in the poll. It would be "stupid" to impeach Trump over Ukraine, she says in a follow-up interview. "Maybe look into it, but don't impeach him for that."
Yotam Schachter, 34, a leadership development consultant from Boston, says Trump's behavior warrants impeachment and conviction, but he worries about the impact on the nation, whatever happens next. "I see the impeachment as just the latest point of crisis in our polarized divisiveness," he says, "and I haven't seen anybody who is approaching the impeachment from a stance that can bring us together as a nation instead of further dividing us."
In the survey, 41% say House members should vote to impeach Trump; 14% say they should investigate but not impeach him, and 42% say they should drop their inquiries into him and his administration. The Democratic-controlled House is likely to begin debating two articles of impeachment Wednesday, and a vote Wednesday or Thursday would probably fall largely along party lines.
That would send the charges to the Republican-controlled Senate, which could convene a trial in January.
Trump would be only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
In the poll, sentiments divided along predictable partisan lines. Republicans by an overwhelming 89%-9% oppose a Senate vote that would remove Trump from office; Democrats by 81%-15% support it. Independents by 52%-41% oppose it.
The survey shows a yawning gender gap on the issue. Men oppose convicting Trump by close to 2-1, 62%-33%. Women by double digits support a conviction, 57%-40%. That could signal political turbulence ahead for the GOP, which struggled to hold the support of female voters in last year's midterm elections.
There is also a sizable generation gap. Voters under 35 years old support removing Trump from office by 56%-39%. A majority of those in older age groups oppose it.
The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cellphone Tuesday through Saturday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Though the impeachment debate has transfixed Washington and inflamed American politics, voters say it won't have much of an impact on their decision of which candidate to back in the 2020 presidential election. Impeachment ranks 11th on a list of 12 issues; only transportation scores lower. Republicans put impeachment dead last.
Even among Democrats, impeachment is a less important concern than health care, gun control, education, the economy, immigration and Social Security.
"I don't think any American really watches C-SPAN, if we're being honest with each other," says Alex Foss, 28, a construction inspector and a Republican from Lakeland, Florida. Foss, who hasn't been watching the impeachment proceedings, says Trump is right to call it a "witch hunt."
Kathleen McMinn, 71, a retiree from San Tan Valley, Arizona, was so appalled by what she heard from Republicans during the hearings that she became a political independent after 50 years in the GOP. "I will vote for Democrats," she says, because she is "so upset with the Republican Party and how the others are not speaking up."
Trump's job approval rating in the new poll is 48% approve-50% disapprove, a tick better than in October, when it was 46%-52%. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's approval rating rose to 42% from 37% in October; her disapproval rating dipped from 51% to 50%.
Impeachment is "a very sad thing for our country, but it seems to be very good for me politically," Trump said Friday at the White House.
Americans differ with Trump's friendly feelings toward Russia. By 5-1, 67%-13%, those surveyed say Russian is an American adversary, not an ally. By 51%-7%, they say it is more important for the United States to support the interests of Ukraine than Russia.
"You know, it isn't a question of political popularity as far as I'm concerned," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "For the longest time, many of us said which Republican is going to defy the wishes of their political base and come forward and do the right thing for the country? Same thing applies to Democrats. Will we ignore our political base and look at our Constitution? That's what should guide us.”
In an interview on Fox News Sunday Morning Futures, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, crowed about reports of that New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, one of two House Democrats who voted against the impeachment inquiry, was poised to change his party registration to the GOP. "The real question is, how big will the jailbreak be by the Democrats?" he said. "How many more before Wednesday's vote?”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Poll: As impeachment looms, a narrow majority opposes convicting Trump