We now have two polls which show a substantial shift in public opinion toward impeachment. Both show a public divided on removing the President from office but with majorities in favor of holding an impeachment inquiry, which is now underway. CBS/YouGov (an online pollster) found 55% of Americans support an impeachment inquiry, while 45% oppose. On whether Trump actually deserves to be impeached, 42% say yes, 36% say no and 22% say it is “too soon to say.” In other words, fully 64% of the public either supports or is open to supporting impeaching the President. Notably, political independents are evenly divided (49% yes, 51% no), while partisans on both sides come down predictably by big margins.
A Quinnipiac poll shows a similar picture: 52% support an inquiry, 45% do not. On actually removing the President from office, the public is evenly divided: 47% to 47%.
On each of these numbers, public sentiment has moved rapidly against the President. Only a week earlier, 57% opposed removal from office while only 37% approved, according to Quinnipiac.
One question we’ll hear a lot of speculation about is this. Did Nancy Pelosi simply judge the political mood correctly and see, in advance of polls, that the Ukraine story was the step too far that would swing the public in favor or impeachment? Or did her act of opting for impeachment itself shift public opinion?
Those who have supported an impeachment inquiry all along can say that leadership was all it took, or that leadership itself shifted the equation. When she took the step, the public would follow. My own read is that it is a mix of both, with most of the shift being driven by the President’s actions. But there’s no question that Pelosi’s move has at a minimum consolidated Democratic support for an impeachment inquiry.
It is important to remember that removing a President from office requires a catastrophic collapse of public support. Yes, you need 34 senators to vote for acquittal. But that is fundamentally driven by public opinion. Nothing here says the President is done for. A substantial minority of the public What I think it does show pretty clearly is that it will be quite difficult to make impeachment a political albatross for Democrats. Removal from office is a radical step, reserved for the most extreme cases. It has literally never happened in American history. The public is right to move toward this option reluctantly. But for now Democrats enjoy almost universal support among Democratic partisans, the support of about half of political independents and even a non-trivial number of Republicans. The CBS poll showed 23% of Republicans supporting the inquiry, though not necessarily impeachment. The Democrats are in line with the public mood. Whether this was a necessary prerequisite for moving ahead is now a moot question. They have it.