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Republican Voters Increasingly Back The GOP’s Move To Block Impeachment Witnesses

On Tuesday, the impeachment trial of President Trump featured hours of acrimonious debate over whether witnesses should be called and what a fair process would look like. Now, as the House impeachment managers begin to present their case against Trump, the latest iteration of our survey with Ipsos, where we use Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel to poll the same respondents every few weeks, found that a solid majority (58 percent) of Americans continue to think that Trump committed an impeachable offense.

As in our poll released three weeks ago, more than half of Americans also believe there’s enough evidence to remove Trump from office for his actions relating to the Ukraine scandal (52 percent) and for his refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry and efforts to block witnesses from complying with subpoenas (53 percent). Similarly, a majority (54 percent) of Americans say they would approve of the Senate voting to remove Trump from office. Almost exactly the same share (55 percent) oppose the idea of dismissing impeachment charges entirely.

But as is the case with pretty much every aspect of impeachment, there is a big partisan divide, with Democrats much more likely to support removing Trump from office than Republicans, and Republicans much likelier to support dismissing the charges than Democrats.

A majority would approve of removing Trump from office

Share of respondents in an Ipsos/FiveThirtyEight poll who said they would approve of Trump being removed from office, and the share who support dismissing charges against Trump

party Approve of Trump being removed from office Support dismissing charges against trump
All 54.0%
41.3%
Democratic 85.9
17.0
Republican 18.1
73.2

Table shows responses to two different questions, so answers should not add up to 100 percent.

Even though the impeachment process is now in its final phase, we still haven’t seen big changes in how respondents feel about many of the questions we’ve been tracking. But in our latest survey, we did see that among people who’ve responded to all five waves of our survey, there’s been an ever-so-slight (but statistically significant) uptick in the share of respondents who think Trump committed an impeachable offense (from 55 percent in November to 58 percent now). This group isn’t quite as big as the 1,600 respondents who filled out our most recent survey, but it’s still quite large — nearly 1,200 people — and the fact that they have responded to all five survey waves means that we can get a pretty detailed picture of how their views have changed over time.1 Any shift in perspectives on impeachment is noteworthy, too, given how narrowly Americans are divided and how steady their views have been, according both to our polling with Ipsos and our tracker of polls that ask about impeachment.

We also found that Republicans in our panel are increasingly supportive of Trump and skeptical of key elements of the Democrats’ case against him. For example, the share of Republicans who strongly approve of the way Trump is handling the impeachment process has risen since November, from 27 percent to 36 percent. And a smaller share of Republicans now say that it would be inappropriate to withhold military aid from Ukraine while demanding an investigation into the Bidens, or for Trump to cover up his actions relating to Ukraine — signaling that Republicans may increasingly be on Trump’s side.

The partisan divide on witnesses is widening

On Tuesday night, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer forced a series of votes on whether to subpoena the Trump administration and State Department for more documents, and whether to compel top aides to testify. And while those efforts failed, the topic of whether new witnesses should be called is likely to come up again after House Democrats and Trump’s legal team present their arguments.

As in our previous survey, we found that a majority (59 percent) of Americans still support hearing new witnesses and testimony, while 37 percent want to keep the focus solely on the evidence introduced in the House hearings. But although the top line number hasn’t really shifted, Democrats and Republicans have become much more polarized over the past couple of weeks on this issue. In late December, 65 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans supported bringing in new witnesses. But now the share of Democrats who want new witnesses has risen to 74 percent, while the share of Republicans who say the same has fallen to 41 percent.

Republican voters’ swift change of heart on this issue could make it politically easier for Senate Republicans to vote against calling new witnesses, which remains one of the big open questions in the trial. Moderate senators like Maine’s Susan Collins may still feel pressure to support bringing in new witnesses, but increasingly, rank-and-file Republicans seem to be just fine with a rapid trial that includes no new evidence or testimony.

Few think the Senate is impartial

At the beginning of the impeachment trial, senators swore an oath to “do impartial justice.” What that means in practice, though, is pretty much up to them, in part because there’s no way to disqualify a senator for bias. Nevertheless, according to our survey released three weeks ago, the vast majority (86 percent) of Americans think senators should attempt to be impartial jurors, while just 10 percent thought they should be guided by their party on how to vote.

In our new survey, though, we asked respondents what they thought the senators will do — and we found a similarly vast divide: Only 29 percent of Americans think the senators will attempt to be impartial jurors, while 68 percent believe senators’ votes will be guided by their party.

This cynicism about how senators will approach the impeachment trial did bring us, however, a rare moment of unity, as most Democrats (71 percent) and Republicans (65 percent) agreed that senators will probably be guided by party over conscience. That echoes a finding we’ve seen in previous waves of our survey — when it comes to impeachment, partisans can’t agree on anything except the fact that the process has been partisan.

Both parties think impeachment will help them

In our past few surveys, we’ve consistently found that respondents are divided on whether the fate of Trump’s presidency should be determined by voters or by the Senate. Our most recent survey, for instance, found that half of Americans think voters in the upcoming election should determine Trump’s fate, while 47 percent believe he should be removed from office by the Senate. But our survey also found that Americans are divided about whether being impeached will affect Trump’s chance of being reelected in November: 35 percent believe it won’t have any impact on his chances of being reelected, while 32 percent say it will hurt him and 29 percent say it will help him.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, Republicans and Democrats both tend to think that their side will benefit electorally from the impeachment fight. Only 13 percent of Democrats believe that impeaching Trump will help him get reelected in November, while 37 percent say it won’t make a difference and 47 percent say his reelection chances will be hurt. Nearly half (49 percent) of Republicans, meanwhile, say Trump’s reelection chances will be helped by impeachment, while 33 percent believe it won’t make a difference and 16 percent say it will hurt his chance of reelection.

So it’s not just perspectives on how the trial should unfold that are polarized — Americans are also divided by party on what impeachment will mean for the 2020 election. We’ll be keeping track of whether those opinions change as the process draws to a close over the next few weeks.

Footnotes

  1. Additionally, by looking at just those respondents who answered each wave of our survey, we can be reasonably sure that any change we see is actually due to people changing their minds, rather than a change in the sample.

Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

Laura Bronner is FiveThirtyEight’s quantitative editor.

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