After the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump on Dec. 18, the president’s fate is in the Senate’s hands. The process for the trial still isn’t clear, but there are signs that it will likely be smoother sailing for the president going forward: Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will coordinate with White House counsel, and there’s no indication that the Senate is anywhere near the 67 votes needed to remove Trump from office. And according to our impeachment and removal polling trackers, there isn’t broad public support for that either — just 47 percent of Americans favor removing Trump.
But in the latest installment of our survey with Ipsos, where we use Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel to poll the same group of respondents every two weeks, a majority (57 percent) of Americans said they think Trump committed an impeachable offense. Fifty-two percent said they think Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine or his refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry constitute enough evidence to remove him from office.
That might seem like good news for Democrats, since other recent polls have put support for removal in the low- to mid-40s — but the picture is complicated. As always, there are big partisan divisions: The vast majority of Democrats think there’s sufficient evidence to remove Trump from office, while most Republicans think there isn’t. And there is still a small but notable number of Americans who think there is enough evidence for removal, but also believe the upcoming presidential election — and not Congress — should determine whether Trump remains in office. Consistent with previous rounds of our survey, we found that about 15 percent of Americans think that there is enough evidence to remove Trump from office on matters related to Ukraine or his attempts to stymie the impeachment inquiry, but also think his fate should be decided by voters in the 2020 election, not Congress.
Most Americans want the trial to expand on the evidence in the impeachment articles
There might not be a broad consensus about whether Trump should be removed from office, but our survey found that a majority of the public is on the same page about one thing — they want a Senate trial with new witnesses who did not appear during the impeachment process in the House.
According to the survey, 57 percent of Americans think it would be better if the upcoming trial included new witnesses who could potentially shed light on Trump’s conduct, while 39 percent said it would be better to keep the focus solely on the evidence introduced in the House hearings and included in the articles of impeachment, without calling new witnesses. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 65 percent of Democrats support calling new witnesses in the Senate trial. But 48 percent of Republicans also support calling new witnesses — although about the same number still want the trial to proceed with only the evidence introduced in the House hearings (50 percent).
If it seems surprising that significant shares of Democrats and Republicans both prefer a trial with new witnesses, it’s important to remember that Democrats and Republicans may have very different kinds of Senate witnesses in mind. Democrats in Congress have been pressing Republican leaders to call senior White House aides like former national security advisor John Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who were reportedly involved in the freezing of U.S. military aid to Ukraine and a subsequent effort to get the freeze lifted. Trump and some congressional Republicans, meanwhile, have suggested that Joe Biden and his son Hunter should testify about Hunter’s time on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president, which Trump has portrayed as a conflict of interest that led to corrupt actions by Joe Biden, although there’s no evidence to support that claim.
The survey also found that Americans are divided on House Democrats’ current strategy of refusing to transmit the articles of impeachment until their concerns around a fair trial have been addressed. Roughly half of Americans say the Democrats should not wait to deliver the articles of impeachment, compared with 45 percent who say they should withhold the articles. Even though the public generally supports a broader call for a new slate of witnesses, Democrats’ game of brinksmanship with the articles of impeachment may also backfire.
Americans’ feelings on impeachment are increasingly certain
Over the past few waves of the survey, as we check back in with respondents, we’ve been keeping an eye on a small but crucial group — those who are less certain about whether Trump committed an impeachable offense, and are therefore perhaps more likely to change their minds about whether he should be impeached and removed from office. And while the overall share of respondents who think Trump committed an impeachable offense hasn’t really shifted, there is evidence that people are getting more certain in their views — and those people mostly think Trump did something impeachable.
Back in mid-November, when we polled respondents for the first time, people who thought Trump had committed an impeachable offense weren’t much more certain of their view than people who believed he hadn’t. About 75 percent of respondents who thought Trump’s behavior was impeachable were either “absolutely” or “pretty” certain of their view, compared to 71 percent of people who thought Trump’s conduct wasn’t impeachable. Now, though, 81 percent of respondents who think Trump committed an impeachable offense are certain of their view, while the share of respondents who think Trump’s conduct isn’t impeachable is at 72 percent, without a similar uptick.
This isn’t a huge swing, of course. But because it’s proven exceptionally difficult so far to change Americans’ minds about Trump’s impeachment, any shifts — even if they’re relatively minor — are worth noting. This doesn’t mean that the expected outcome of the Senate trial will change, but there is evidence that some of those potentially persuadable respondents have been drawn more firmly into the pro-impeachment camp over the course of the process.