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What The First Few Post-Ukraine Polls Say About Impeachment

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

In the week since The Wall Street Journal first broke the news that President Trump allegedly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in a July phone call, six pollsters1 have released surveys asking Americans whether they support impeaching the president.

The polling we have so far mostly shows an uptick in support for impeachment. But according to the initial polls at least, public opinion doesn’t seem to have shifted dramatically from where it was following both the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on April 18 and Mueller’s testimony before Congress on July 24. The majority of Americans still do not favor impeachment, although more than two-thirds of Democrats do. There are several reasons, however, to believe that this picture is incomplete and could change.

Most early polls show uptick in support for impeachment

The final poll conducted in April, July and September* from pollsters that have released a poll after news about Trump’s call to the Ukrainian president first broke on Sept. 20

Support for Impeachment in polls taken …
Pollster post-Mueller report (4/18) post-Mueller testimony (7/24) post-Ukraine news (9/20) overall change
YouGov/HuffPost** 37% 41% 47% +10
Morning Consult/Politico 34 37 43 +9
Quinnipiac 29 32 37 +8
HarrisX/ScottRasmussen.com 42 43 44 +2
Ipsos/Reuters 40 39 -1
SurveyMonkey/Business Insider 45

*For polls released before Sept. 27, 2019.
**The post-Mueller-testimony YouGov/HuffPost number is from a poll conducted Aug. 9-10; that pollster’s July poll was conducted before the testimony.
Polls started on or after the relevant date with the exception of the post-Ukraine Quinnipiac poll, which started the day before that story broke. Different polls survey different subsets of the U.S. population (e.g. all adults, registered voters, likely voters).

Source: Polls

First, although support for impeaching the president is shy of a majority, polling suggests that a majority of Americans do disapprove of Trump’s actions. A YouGov/Economist poll released Wednesday found that 52 percent of Americans said it is inappropriate for the president to request a foreign government open an investigation into a potential political opponent. (By contrast, 22 percent said it was appropriate, and 26 percent said they weren’t sure.) And in that same poll, 62 percent of Americans said that it is inappropriate for the president to threaten withholding foreign aid to a country if it refuses to “take an action which personally benefits the President.” (Only 14 percent said it is appropriate, and 24 percent were not sure.)

But as editor-in-chief Nate Silver pointed out on Tuesday, just because a majority disapproves of the president’s actions doesn’t mean a majority supports impeaching him. In the Quinnipiac University poll that came out after the publication of the Mueller report, for example, 54 percent of Americans thought Trump had “attempted to derail or obstruct the investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election,” and 46 percent thought Trump had committed crimes while president, but only 29 percent said Congress should begin the impeachment process.

So support for impeachment could remain low this time around, too, but it could also be different. A separate YouGov poll conducted Tuesday found that a majority of Americans may either “strongly” or “somewhat” support impeachment if Trump “suspended military aid to Ukraine in order to incentivize the country’s officials to investigate his political rival.”

And that’s not the only evidence to suggest that support for impeachment could increase. Of the five polls from which we have data so far, one is from a high-quality telephone pollster — Quinnipiac. And their latest poll shows a 5-percentage-point increase in support for impeachment overall and a 12-percentage-point increase among Democrats since they were last asked the question in July. Keep in mind, too, this poll went into the field on Sept. 19 — a full day before The Wall Street Journal first broke the story of Trump’s call with Zelensky, and only stayed in the field through Monday, the day before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.

But, of course, it’s important to note that all of this polling is really preliminary. Even over the course of this week, a lot has happened that the polls don’t account for. For example, not all of these polls capture changes in public opinion following Pelosi’s announcement of an official impeachment inquiry, nor do they capture public reactions to the memo of the phone call between Trump and Zelensky that the White House released on Wednesday. And none of them factor in the testimony of Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire before Congress on Thursday morning.

Americans may still be digesting the flurry of news and deciding how they feel about it. According to a Marist poll conducted Wednesday, 32 percent of Americans said they weren’t closely following news about the impeachment inquiry. And according to the YouGov/HuffPost poll, when asked if they found the allegation that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Biden’s son credible, 42 percent of respondents said that they weren’t sure or hadn’t heard enough to say. So as Americans learn more about the impeachment inquiry, they could start to support it more, or they could support it less. We’ll be tracking the polls to find out.

Other polling bites

  • The U.N. General Assembly met in New York this week for its 74th session. According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, opinions of the international organization in the U.S. are growing more partisan. Fewer Republicans have a favorable view of the body now than at any time in the last three decades.
  • According to a YouGov/Huffpost poll, about half of Republicans are either “somewhat” or “very” concerned about climate change. Younger members of the GOP were much more likely to be worried — 69 percent of Republicans under the age of 45 reported concern over the climate, but only 38 percent of those over 45 did.
  • A Selzer poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa showed Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the first choice of 22 percent of voters, putting her neck-and-neck with former Vice President Joe Biden, who had 20 percent support. Bernie Sanders came in third with 11 percent. The poll, which was sponsored by the Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom, has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points, which means Warren and Biden are more or less tied. Selzer is known for its track record of accuracy, so it tends to get a lot of attention. Don’t take it too seriously, though — the Iowa caucus still a few months away.
  • A Monmouth University poll of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters also found Warren in a virtual tie with Biden. Warren led Biden 27 to 25 percent in the poll, which had a margin of error of +/-4.9 percentage points. That’s a 19 percentage-point increase for Warren and an 11 percentage-point decrease for Biden since May, when Monmouth last polled New Hampshire voters.
  • A Gallup poll conducted this month found that of the three branches of government, Americans trust the judicial branch the most. Sixty-nine percent said they trust the judicial branch either a “great deal” or a “fair amount,” 45 percent said the same of the executive branch, and 38 percent said so of the legislative branch.
  • The Quinnipiac poll featured in the “Poll of the week” section above also found that Democrats are split on the best way to deal with the health care system. Forty-four percent said it’s better to keep the private health insurance system and build on Obamacare, while 47 percent said they prefer to replace the current system with “Medicare for All.”
  • 40 percent of Americans, a plurality, told YouGov in a poll this week that fall was their favorite season. But when YouGov asked the question in January 2014, spring topped the list as Americans’ favorite season, though summer and fall were only 1 and 2 points behind, respectively. (In both polls, very few people liked winter.) Gallup asked Americans about their favorite season in 1947, 1960 and 2005 — and found each time that spring was favored.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized after multiple photos and videos surfaced of him wearing brownface and blackface makeup. Some initial polls after the news became public showed Trudeau’s party may have lost some ground over the issue, but others have shown the Liberals starting to bounce back. Although the effects of the racist images on Trudeau’s prospects seem relatively small so far, even a small dip could matter, since polls are showing a close race heading into next month’s election.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.8 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53.2 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -10.4 points). At this time last week, 42.1 percent approved and 53.7 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -11.6 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 41.5 percent and a disapproval rating of 53.9 percent, for a net approval rating of -12.4 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 6.8 percentage points (46.8 percent to 40.0 percent). Those numbers haven’t budged in a week. At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 6.5 points (46.3 percent to 39.8 percent).



Footnotes

  1. As of 6 p.m. Thursday. Excluding a Marist poll that was conducted on Wednesday and asked several questions about the “impeachment inquiry,” but none about whether or not Americans support impeachment itself.

Dhrumil Mehta is a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight focusing on politics.

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