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GOP Voters Are More Split On The Substance Of The Ukraine Scandal Than On Penalizing Trump For It

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Polls of the week

Very few Republican voters favor the impeachment and removal of President Trump — only about 11 percent, according to our impeachment polls tracker. Democrats voted on Thursday to move forward with public hearings on impeachment and will likely use the hearings to try to boost overall support for impeachment. But it’s unlikely that impeachment gets much more popular without some Republican voters on board. So are GOP voters moveable?

Partisanship is as strong as ever, so it’s unlikely we will see a huge shift — like a majority of Republicans suddenly supporting impeachment. But there are indications that — impeachment aside — GOP voters don’t exactly approve of what Trump did with regard to Ukraine, so maybe some of them aren’t fully entrenched in their views.

Most notably, a Selzer & Co./Grinnell College survey of U.S. adults released this week found that just 7 percent of respondents said that it is OK “for political candidates in the U.S. to ask for assistance from a foreign government to help them win an election.” Eighty-one percent said it is not OK, including overwhelming majorities of people who live in rural areas (87 percent), evangelicals (85 percent) and Republicans (81 percent).

When pollsters mention Trump’s name in their questions, the results are more partisan. But even then, a solid bloc of Republicans object to Trump’s actions. A recent Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that nearly one-in-three Republicans said Trump’s phone conversation with the Ukrainian president was “wrong, but doesn’t rise to an impeachable offense” (22 percent) or “an impeachable offense” (7 percent).35 percent) also said the White House had an obligation to comply with subpoenas from the House committees.


Perhaps the most obvious explanation here is that many Republican voters don’t necessarily agree with Trump pushing Ukraine’s government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son but don’t want him further investigated or removed from office. So the more a polling question raises the stakes and essentially requires respondents to say, “Trump is unfit for office and should be impeached,” the more likely Republican respondents are to align with the president.

An Economist/YouGov poll released this week fits this theory. The poll found that 14 percent of Republican adults think that Trump “purposefully” withheld military aid from Ukraine to force an investigation into the Bidens, and another 23 percent said that they are unsure. That means only 63 percent of Republican respondents took the completely pro-Trump stance that the president did not intentionally withhold the money. Similarly, 15 percent of Republicans think that if it’s proven that Trump withheld aid from the Ukrainians until they agreed to an investigation of the Bidens, that would constitute an impeachable offense. Another 20 percent say they aren’t sure.

But that poll also found that Republicans are basically unified in opposing Trump’s impeachment (81 percent) or his removal (83 percent). Similarly, Morning Consult/Politico poll released this week found that only 11 percent of Republicans think that Trump “abused his power to influence the 2020 election,” while 73 percent said he was “acting within his power.”

All this suggests a difficult path for Democrats to win over Republican voters on the subject of impeachment. Even if House lawmakers seize on some GOP voters’ disapproval of Trump’s conduct in the abstract, they must overcome voters’ strong loyalty to the president in selling impeachment.

Other polling nuggets

  • According to the Grinnell survey, Vice President Mike Pence (44 percent of respondents view him favorably, 44 percent view him unfavorably) is notably more popular than Trump (42 percent favorable/54 percent unfavorable). Twenty-seven percent of voters view Trump very favorably, compared to 24 percent for Pence. Forty-four percent of respondents view Trump very unfavorably, compared to 28 percent who view Pence very unfavorably.
  • Pence was also more popular (38 percent favorable/43 percent unfavorable) than the president (43 percent/55 percent) in the Politico/Morning Consult poll.
  • Former President Barack Obama is very popular, according to the Grinnell survey (61 percent favorable/34 percent unfavorable). But the leading Democratic 2020 candidates aren’t: Biden is at 47/44, Sen. Bernie Sanders is at 49/42, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren is at 39/39.
  • 23 percent of respondents to the Grinnell survey view Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, another 2020 candidate, favorably, whereas 20 percent view her unfavorably. However, 57 percent of voters said that they are not sure, perhaps suggesting they don’t know much about her.
  • 89 percent of adults describe themselves as proud to be Americans, according to the Grinnell survey. Fewer describe themselves as believers in “America First” (70 percent), “afraid for the future” (62 percent), progressive (50 percent), gun enthusiasts (41 percent), feminists (38 percent) and socialists (19 percent).
  • 50 percent of registered voters say that they are “definitely” or “probably” ready for a gay or lesbian president, while 37 percent say they are “probably” or “definitely” not, according to the Morning Consult/Politico survey. Acceptance of an agnostic or non-religious president is also relatively contested, with 45 percent of registered voters saying they are ready for such a president versus 41 percent who say they are not.
  • According to that same Morning Consult/Politico survey, 73 percent of registered voters say they are ready for a female president, 75 percent for a Hispanic president, 71 percent for an unmarried president (71/16) and 61 percent for a vegan president.
  • Attorney General William Barr is increasingly being cast as a villain by liberals, while Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who is essentially leading the impeachment investigation, is now the favorite target of some Republicans. But a significant portion of Americans say they don’t know enough about Barr (36 percent) or Schiff (36 percent) to have an opinion of either man, according to the Economist/YouGov poll.
  • According to a new CNN/University of New Hampshire poll, 57 percent of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters say that they are still unsure who they will vote for in the 2020 race. Twenty-three percent have already made up their mind, and 21 percent are leaning toward a candidate.
  • A plurality (47 percent) of New Hampshire Democrats view Sanders as most progressive candidate, with Warren next at 18 percent, according to the CNN/UNH poll. A plurality view Biden as the candidate best able to handle foreign policy (Biden is at 41 percent by this measure, with Sanders and Warren tied for second at 12 percent).
  • 11 percent of likely New Hampshire primary Republican voters view Trump unfavorably, according to the CNN/UNH poll. His GOP opponents are more unpopular: 21 percent view former Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina unfavorably, 20 percent view former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois unfavorably, and 42 percent view former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld unfavorably.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 41.1 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 54.1 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -13 points). At this time last week, 41.6 percent approved and 54.0 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -12.4 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 41.5 percent and a disapproval rating of 53.5 percent, for a net approval rating of -12.0 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 5.5 percentage points (46.4 percent to 40.9 percent). At this time last week, Democrats led by 6.3 percentage points (46.6 percent to 40.3 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 6.7 points (46.8 percent to 39.9 percent).

Check out our impeachment polls tracker.


  1. More than a third of Republicans (35 percent) also said the White House had an obligation to comply with subpoenas from the House committees.

Perry Bacon Jr. was a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.