The House of Representatives is on the brink of making President Trump the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. It will likely be a deeply divided vote, too, as no Republicans voted in favor of either of the two articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week.
This is perhaps unsurprising considering the country is also deeply divided on this question. In our impeachment polling tracker, 47 percent of Americans say they support impeachment and 47 percent are opposed. This stalemate is also captured in the latest installment of our survey with Ipsos, which uses Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel to repeatedly poll the same group of respondents over time. Public opinion on whether Trump committed an impeachable offense is essentially unchanged since the impeachment hearings started: 57 percent of Americans now think he committed an impeachable offense, compared with 56 percent in mid-November.
That said, our poll did find that a majority of Americans (54 percent in both cases) think there’s sufficient evidence to impeach Trump over his conduct on Ukraine and his refusal to cooperate with Congress in the impeachment inquiry. Those issues are at the heart of the articles of impeachment the House will soon be voting on; Trump is charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. However, there is still a significant chunk of voters in our survey — 10 percent of respondents overall and 12 percent of Democrats — who think Trump committed an impeachable offense but say his fate should be decided by voters in the 2020 election rather than by Congress.1
What most Americans think is impeachable
Just after the House Judiciary Committee drew up and voted on its two articles of impeachment, we asked respondents in our survey if there was enough evidence to impeach Trump based on:
- His actions regarding Ukraine.
- His actions regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election as described in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
- His refusal to comply with the impeachment inquiry and efforts to block witnesses from complying with subpoenas.
- His financial conflicts of interest.
Although a majority of Americans think there’s enough evidence to impeach Trump over his actions regarding Ukraine and his refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, a majority of respondents said they didn’t think there was enough evidence to support impeachment based on Trump’s actions as described in the Mueller report, or his financial conflicts of interest.
|Share who said “yes”|
|Refusal to cooperate with impeachment inquiry and efforts to block witnesses from complying with subpoenas||54.3%||86.1%||17.4%|
|Actions regarding Ukraine||53.6||85.6||16.5|
|Financial conflicts of interest||44.4||72.1||12.5|
|Russian interference in 2016 election as outlined in the Mueller report||42.7||69.5||11.6|
In other words, it may have been a smart move for Democrats to focus narrowly on Trump’s behavior regarding Ukraine, rather than casting a wider net that included evidence from the Mueller report or their own investigations of Trump’s finances.
However, perhaps predictably, there is a wide partisan divide on whether there’s sufficient evidence to impeach Trump on these charges. Majorities of Democrats think there is enough evidence to impeach Trump on all charges, including his conduct related to the Mueller report and his financial conflicts of interest, while majorities of Republicans think there isn’t evidence to support impeaching him on any of the actions we asked about.
Public opinion hasn’t really shifted
As we reinterview respondents in each new wave of our survey, we’ve also been looking for any changes in whether respondents think key events Democrats have focused on in the impeachment inquiry occurred, or whether respondents would consider those actions inappropriate or impeachable. In the latest wave of our survey, however, we found that despite a month of public hearings in two different House committees, there’s been very little change in opinion. Most Americans continue to believe that Trump did ask Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter — and majorities even agree that Trump withheld military aid to pressure the Ukrainians into opening the investigation, and that he tried to cover up his actions regarding Ukraine. Public opinion is more divided on whether these actions are impeachable, although a majority of all respondents say that Trump withholding aid or covering up his actions on Ukraine would be impeachable.
Why have Americans’ perspectives on impeachment been so consistent? It’s likely because, as we noted in November, the people who say they’re less certain of whether Trump committed an impeachable offense are also less likely to be paying close attention to the proceedings. And we found in the second wave of our survey that while a majority (58 percent) of people said the hearings did affect their thinking about impeachment, almost all of those people simply became more convinced of their original opinion — suggesting that it will be increasingly difficult to change the minds of people tuning in at this stage.
There also wasn’t much of a shift on what respondents said should happen to Trump after the impeachment process is over. In our most recent survey, just under half (49 percent) of Americans think he should be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate, while a nearly identical share (48 percent) think his fate should be decided by voters in the 2020 election. In the previous round of the survey, by comparison, 51 percent of respondents said Trump’s fate should be decided in the 2020 election, while 47 percent said he should be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate. That does mean a few more respondents are supporting impeachment and removal now, but the shift also fell within the poll’s margin of error, so it’s hard to know whether there was an actual change of opinion.
How Americans feel about the process
So if the impeachment hearings haven’t really changed Americans’ minds, what do people think about the way the process has unfolded so far? In our most recent survey, we tried to dig into how Americans feel about the inquiry by asking them to give us three words or phrases they associate with the impeachment process.
“Waste” was the single most common word mentioned in response.2 In all, 165 people — about 10 percent of respondents — mentioned some variation of “waste,” including 78 who mentioned of “waste of time.” But nearly everyone who listed “waste” as a response was a Republican. In fact, 18 percent of Republicans included the word “waste” or “wasteful,” compared to just 4 percent of Democrats.3 Other common responses from Republicans included “political” and “witch hunt.” By comparison, the responses were a bit more varied among Democrats, who used words like “long,” “Constitution” and “quid pro quo” to describe the process. Overall, the most common one-word response among Democrats was “necessary” — 7 percent (56 people) listed that. There wasn’t much overlap in the responses between parties, other than the words “partisan” and “Trump,” which were mentioned a similar number of times by Republicans and Democrats.
As the House prepares for its historic impeachment vote, these findings highlight how little common ground there is between Republicans and Democrats — other than a general consensus that the process has been partisan. And based on what we’ve found so far, it’s unlikely that this will change. The impeachment vote and (assuming Trump is impeached) the upcoming Senate trial will probably entrench those divisions even further.
Methodology: All the data presented here come from polling done by Ipsos for FiveThirtyEight, using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online panel that is recruited to be representative of the U.S. population. For this study, the same group of respondents is contacted for an interview six times — roughly every two weeks for three months — to track whether and how their answers changed; this is the third wave of this panel survey, conducted from Dec. 13 to Dec. 16 among a general population sample of adults with an oversample of independents, garnering 1,588 respondents. The study weighting included an adjustment for party identification so that results reflect the general population of U.S. adults. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.