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What The Polls Say About Impeachment Before The First Public Hearing

On Wednesday, we enter a new phase of the House’s impeachment investigation into President Trump: public hearings. And with this week’s testimony may come the first substantial shift in public opinion about impeachment in more than a month.

Support for impeachment first shot up in late September and early October, as news was piling up about Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate his political rival, but public opinion has leveled off. As of around noon Monday, according to our impeachment polling tracker, on average, 48.0 percent of Americans said they supported impeachment in one form or another, while 44.4 percent said they didn’t support it. That’s not too different from the 49.3 percent who supported impeachment and 43.5 percent who opposed it a month earlier.

In fact, even when you break impeachment polls into categories based on question wording — specifically, those that asked if people supported beginning the impeachment process, those that asked if people supported actual impeachment, and those that asked if people supported impeachment and removal — a similar picture emerges: Support for each “flavor” of impeachment has been pretty steady since early October. That said, support for beginning the process has consistently been noticeably higher than support for impeachment or support for impeachment and removal, the latter two of which have been very similar. As of Monday morning, 51.0 percent of Americans supported beginning the impeachment process, while 46.6 percent supported impeachment and 47.4 percent supported impeachment and removal.1

But there are some interesting variations between the categories if we isolate Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Among Democrats, for instance, support for impeachment and removal has generally run higher than support for impeachment alone. This could just be noise in the data (remember, we’re looking at crosstabs of polls now, which come with larger margins of error), but it also makes a certain amount of sense: Democrats largely want to see Trump out of the White House, so they might jump at the chance to answer “yes” to a poll that asks about removing him from office. As of Monday, the percentage of Democrats who supported impeachment and removal (84.6 percent) was closer to the percentage who supported beginning the process (85.6 percent) than to the percentage who supported impeachment alone (80.8 percent).

Among Republicans, unsurprisingly, the opposite was true. Support for impeachment and removal has consistently been the lowest of the three categories since late September, with support hitting a measly 9.3 percent on Monday, while support for impeachment alone was at 11.1 percent (although we should note that, because of polls’ margins of error, that’s not a meaningful difference). Support for beginning the impeachment process was highest, although still not that high at 13.6 percent.

Finally, among independents, the picture looks much the same as it does overall. Support for beginning the impeachment process has consistently been significantly higher than support in the other types of polls and sat at 49.5 percent on Monday. Meanwhile, support for impeaching Trump and support for impeaching and removing him have moved in tandem over the last five weeks.

Since Nov. 3, however, independents have been a bit more likely to support impeachment and removal than simple impeachment, and the numbers were 44.3 percent to 41.1 percent as of Monday. We’re not sure why this might be (again, it could just be noise), but it will be interesting to see whether that trend continues into the public hearing phase of the inquiry.

Remember, the high-profile nature of the hearings has the potential to scramble these numbers across the board — marshaling public opinion behind impeachment if the hearings contain compelling evidence against Trump, or rallying the public behind the president if voters feel that Democrats are overreaching. Only one thing is for sure: We’ll be keeping a close eye on whether the polling average on impeachment shifts meaningfully.

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  1. Keen-eyed readers may notice that the trend line in the chart below for support for beginning the inquiry differs slightly from the one in our impeachment polls tracker. There are two methodological differences here. First, we’re using our updated pollster ratings to calculate averages from start to finish in this article — the trend lines on our tracker reflect the new ratings only after we published them on Nov. 5. Second, we’re calculating the trend lines using all the polls we have now, rather than using only surveys we had collected at the time.

Laura Bronner is a senior applied scientist at ETH Zürich and FiveThirtyEight’s former quantitative editor.

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior editor and senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.