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What The Latest Polling On Trump’s Removal Does (And Doesn’t) Mean

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

It was a historic week in the U.S. Senate, as the impeachment trial of President Trump got underway. We got opening arguments, fights over decorum, dealmaking and more. We also got a bunch of new polls measuring how Americans felt about all this, and … support for Trump’s removal from office remains as polarized as ever. Almost every poll released this week found the country closely divided on the question, although most showed that slightly more people support Trump’s removal than oppose it.

The latest polls say Americans favor removal — narrowly

Polls released this week asking whether President Trump should be removed from office

Dates Pollster Sample Support Removal Oppose Removal Net
Jan. 2-15 Gallup 1014 A 46% 51% -5
Jan. 14-16 SurveyUSA 4069 RV 46 39 +7
Jan. 15-17 HuffPost/YouGov 1000 A 46 43 +3
Jan. 6-19 Pew Research Center 12638 A 51 46 +5
Jan. 16-19 CNN/SSRS 1156 A 51 45 +6
Jan. 17-19 Politico/Morning Consult 1997 RV 47 45 +2
Jan. 16-20 Monmouth 903 A 49 48 +1
Jan. 17-20 FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos 1587 A 54 42 +12
Jan. 16-21 Associated Press/NORC 1353 A 45 40 +5
Jan. 19-21 The Economist/YouGov 1500 A 43 42 +1

Source: polls

Overall, our average of polls focusing on removing Trump from office shows, as of Thursday night, that 48.1 percent of Americans support doing so.

That includes 83.9 percent of Democrats but only 8.4 percent of Republicans. Support among independents is almost exactly between the two, at 41.8 percent. Furthermore, these numbers have barely budged since the House voted to impeach Trump in December. That implies that each side’s political maneuvering in recent weeks, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s delay in sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s restrictive rules for the Senate trial, haven’t affected public opinion.

You might also notice that our impeachment tracker (on display below the removal tracker) has crept up to 50.5 percent.

However, it can be misleading to make a one-to-one comparison between the impeachment tracker today and the impeachment tracker a few months ago. Before the House voted to impeach Trump, this tracker incorporated a more diverse array of questions, including those that asked if Trump should be “impeached and removed.”1 That question is now obsolete: These days, the only question pollsters are still asking about impeachment (as distinct from removal) is whether respondents approve or disapprove of the House’s decision to impeach Trump. (The removal tracker currently draws from questions that ask only if Trump should be “removed,” without mentioning impeachment.) The impeachment tracker now reflects trends in only one pretty mildly worded question, one of several reasons it’s possible that support would be higher than in other impeachment-related polls.2 A good example of this can be found in the Monmouth University poll released this week: Americans were evenly divided (49 percent to 48 percent) on whether to remove Trump from office, but they approved of the House’s decision to impeach by 7 points (53 percent to 46 percent).

Opponents of Trump might be tempted to think that having 48 percent of the country behind his removal bodes poorly for his reelection chances. I wouldn’t be reassured by that number if I were the president — Trump’s approval rating (the most direct measure of his popularity we have) remains pretty bad — but there are several reasons why we can’t assume that this means at least 48 percent of the country will also vote against Trump in November. First, although they are few and far between, at least some of those who support removal self-identify as Republicans. They may support his removal because they believe that Vice President Mike Pence (who would take over if Trump is ousted) would make a better president — but if faced with a choice between Trump and a Democratic candidate, they might still prefer Trump.

In addition, many — if not most — polls asking about removal are conducted among all adults, not among voters. (The idea, after all, is to see how the country feels about removing Trump, and the country includes millions of nonvoters.) The people who end up voting in elections tend to be a tad more Republican than the adult population. So a pollster that shows narrow support for Trump’s removal could actually begin to show narrow opposition to it with a sample limited to likely voters.

The upshot is that we can’t actually say with much confidence whether impeachment is hurting (or helping) Trump’s reelection chances. Nor is it even clear it’s having any affect at all.

Make sure to check out FiveThirtyEight’s Democratic primary forecast.

Other polling bites

  • Following recent reporting that Sen. Bernie Sanders told Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a private meeting in 2018 that he did not think a woman could get elected president, CNN/SSRS asked voters if they thought a woman could win. And voters overwhelmingly said yes, 84 percent to 15 percent. There is a notable gender gap, though: 89 percent of men said a woman could get elected while 9 percent disagreed, but women were less convinced, at 79 percent to 20 percent.
  • A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll found that voters in Georgia approve of Trump’s job performance 51 percent to 48 percent. That’s pretty different from what the last AJC poll found: a 44 percent approval rating and a 54 percent disapproval rating. The difference could be because this week’s AJC poll included education in its weighting formula, an important development considering that respondent pools that underrepresented white voters without a college degree may have been responsible for some of 2016’s most egregious polling errors.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not running for Senate in Kansas is considered a blow to Republicans’ chances of holding onto that seat, as it makes it likelier that the party will nominate divisive and potentially unelectable candidate Kris Kobach. Kobach’s main threat for the nomination now appears to be Rep. Roger Marshall, and this week, a pro-Marshall political action committee released an internal poll showing Marshall at 29 percent and Kobach at 28 percent. But internal polls often overstate their candidates’ standings in hopes of getting favorable headlines. So this poll actually implies that Kobach probably leads right now — although with more than six months until the primary, there’s plenty of time for that to change.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation is out with a wide-ranging new poll on abortion. Sixty-nine percent of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade to be overturned, but the public does support many restrictions on abortion that have been implemented on the state level: For example, 66 percent support requiring a 24-hour waiting period between meeting with a health care provider and actually getting an abortion. In response to another question, 63 percent of Americans say they know someone (which can include themselves) who has had an abortion.
  • A new poll by The Economist/YouGov finds that 5 percent of Americans identify as vegetarians and an additional 2 percent identify as vegans. However, those under 30 are much more likely to say they have a meatless diet: 9 percent of them are vegetarians, and 6 percent are vegans.

Trump approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.0 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53.8 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -11.8 points). At this time last week, 42.4 percent approved and 52.9 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -10.5 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 42.7 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.8 percent, for a net approval rating of -10.1 points.

Generic ballot

In our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot, Democrats currently lead by 5.5 percentage points (46.8 percent to 41.3 percent). A week ago, Democrats led Republicans by 5.9 points (47.0 percent to 41.1 percent). At this time last month, voters preferred Democrats by 6.5 points (47.4 percent to 40.9 percent).

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2020 elections.



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Footnotes

  1. Emphasis added.

  2. Other reasons might include that respondents are increasingly resigned to the fact that impeachment is now a done deal.

Nathaniel Rakich is FiveThirtyEight’s elections analyst.

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