Poll: Charge President With Crimes, Don’t Impeach

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP

Quinnipiac has new poll data about impeachment out today. It shows among other things the public has pretty different takes on the presidency than what is treated largely as a given within elite opinion.

One big takeaway is that the public does not support impeaching the President: 61% to 33% say Congress should not begin the process of impeaching the President. That obviously includes lots of Republicans who are firmly against it. Democrats support it, unsurprisingly, but there’s significant opposition even there. 62% of Democrats favor but 31% oppose. African-Americans are the only demographic group that supports impeachment, 63% to 31%.

But that’s not the whole story. American voters overwhelmingly believe a sitting President should be able to face criminal charges while he or she serves as President, just like every other American.

Fully 69% of voters say there should be no de facto immunity from criminal charges while a President is in office. 52% of Republicans agree. And there’s more bad news from President Trump. 57% believe he committed crimes before his inauguration. Voters are split 45% to 45% on whether he’s committed crimes as President. 55% say the Mueller Report did not clear the President of wrongdoing.

The public is much more closely divided about an impeachment inquiry. 48% says yes; 45% say no. But here the question is asked in an ambiguous way. The question was: “Do you think that Congress should investigate to determine whether or not to bring impeachment charges against President Trump, or don’t you think so?” You can interpret that as an impeachment inquiry but it’s just as easily interpreted as general investigations.

This poll shows pretty clear what we already know, which is that the public does not support impeachment the President, although a significant majority of Democrats do. What strikes me more is the finding about charging a President with a crime. On balance I think this is the right policy. The order of events should be removal from office and then criminal prosecution. The arguments that the constitution forbids it seem iffy to me. As policy, I think it makes sense. But clearly the voting public completely disagrees.

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