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Two Weeks In, Impeachment Is Becoming More Popular

It’s been a little over two weeks since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into President Trump and two damning documents were released that highlight Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

In response to this, we launched an impeachment polling tracker to follow how much support impeaching the president had among the public — and whether new revelations in this unfolding saga would change their minds. And based on polls released on or before Sept. 19 (before the Ukraine story broke open), support for impeachment initially sat at 40.1 percent, and opposition was at 51.0 percent. But that began to change after we learned more about the scandal. And now, as of Wednesday, Oct. 9, the polling consensus is clear: Impeachment has gone from fairly unpopular to having near-majority support.

According to our average, 48.8 percent of people support impeachment, while only 43.6 percent don’t support it.1 That’s an increase even from last week, when the share of people who supported and opposed impeachment were roughly the same. What’s changed? Early this week, we got a couple new, high-quality polls that showed a majority of Americans in favor of an impeachment inquiry. Most notably, a Washington Post-Schar School poll found that 58 percent of Americans agreed with the House’s decision to start an impeachment inquiry, and only 38 percent disagreed with it. And an Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP poll found that 55 percent approved of the House’s decision and 44 percent disapproved of it.

Going forward, I’ll be watching whether the — dare we say it — popularity of impeachment (support now outweighs opposition by 5.2 percentage points) is sustainable. One thing to keep in mind is that both of those polls asked a relatively mild version of the impeachment question — e.g., “Do you approve or disapprove [of] Congress’s decision to open an impeachment inquiry on President Trump?” as opposed to something like, “Do you believe President Trump should be impeached and removed from office?” And both pollsters did find better numbers for Trump when they asked questions like if respondents supported removal from office — 49 percent said they did in the Washington Post-Schar School poll, while IBD/TIPP found that those who are following the Ukraine story were divided on the question of whether Trump’s actions rise to the level of an impeachable offense (50 percent yes; 46 percent no).2

An additional development to watch is whether rising support for impeachment reflects anything more than the Democratic rank and file coalescing around its party’s now-stated pro-impeachment position — more than four-fifths of Democrats are now behind it. But our tracker also finds that support for impeachment is rising among independents and Republicans, too:

From Sept. 19 to Oct. 9, backing for impeachment among Democrats has increased by 11.2 points (from 71.6 percent support to 82.8 percent support). But backing has also increased among independents by 9.6 points (from 33.9 percent to 43.5 percent). Even some Republicans have had a change of heart: Their support for impeachment has increased by 4.1 points, from 9.7 percent to 13.8 percent.

This is obviously not great for Trump: Independent voters could, in theory, decide his 2020 reelection fate. And the fact that some Republicans are also moving in favor of impeachment is worrisome for him, too. Although the absolute number of Republicans who support impeachment (13.8 percent) is still quite small, it is notable that they haven’t proved totally immovable in the face of events.

Of course, it’s not a given that rising support for impeachment will result in future political difficulties for the president either; keep an eye on measures like his approval rating and the generic congressional ballot, too. Things could also change in the coming weeks, as new developments in this story emerge — but as things sit now, almost half of the country now thinks the president should be subject to impeachment. That’s pretty remarkable.

Footnotes

  1. As of 11 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday.

  2. These questions do not factor into our polling average, however, because the Washington Post-Schar School poll asked the removal question as a subset of the overall impeachment question, and the IBD/TIPP question was not asked of the general public.

Nathaniel Rakich is FiveThirtyEight’s elections analyst.

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