Inside The Striking Shift In Public Opinion On Impeachment

TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2018/06/07: Direct action group Rise and Resist demonstrated in front of Trump Tower, demanding the impeachment of Donald Trump. As he continues to try to discredit Mueller’s investigation, attack the press, and act in his self-interest rather than the interest of American citizens, Rise and Resist will press for impeachment through non-violent protest. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Protests outside Trump Tower in New York (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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October 11, 2019 11:48 a.m.

Over the past few weeks, public opinion on impeaching President Donald Trump has shifted rapidly. It’s been stunning to watch.

After evidence spilled into public consciousness about the President’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, voters of all stripes grew significantly more inclined to support an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

The shift in public opinion holds steady across three polls put into the field consistently enough to be of use in the tight timeline of the story’s development. The three polls — Quinnipiac, Politico/Morning Consult and Reuters/Ipsos — all seem to turn on one event: the White House’s September 25 release of the call memo of the Trump-Zelensky conversation from late July.

Quinnipiac and Politico ask if voters are in favor of Trump’s impeachment and removal from office; Reuters only asks about impeachment.

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Before the memo’s release, even just days before, respondents to the polls leaned against impeachment.

By the timing of these first polls, the American public had become aware of the Trump-Zelensky call and the whistleblower complaint, which multiple outlets had already reported involved Ukraine. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) had gone public with his stymied attempts to obtain the complaint. Trump had admitted that the Bidens and “corruption” came up on the call. Rudy Giuliani yelled on CNN that he asked Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden.

None of that mattered. More respondents still stood solidly in opposition to Trump’s impeachment than supported it.

That changed around September 25, the date that the White House released a memo — which they called a transcript — of the Trump-Zelensky call.

The document was damning. In it, Trump asks Zelensky for a “favor” when the Ukrainian President brought up withheld military aid, mentioning Biden by name. He goads Zelensky to work with Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr and alludes to the Ukrainian ambassador who was pushed out for her resistance to the pressure campaign.

Voters seem to have gotten the message. In the days just after the memo’s release, all three of the polls showed a marked increase in support for impeachment.

The scandal has been unfurling at a breakneck speed since then. The whistleblower’s complaint was released. Former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker testified before Congress. The House Intelligence Committee released a tranche of texts with other State Department officials, showing their coordination with Giuliani to organize the pressure campaign. Trump asked China, on live television, to also investigate the Bidens.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll reflects the firestorm of news, with support for impeachment growing by a few percentage points.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll holds steady with the support contingent, while the numbers opposing the impeachment dropped.

The Quinnipiac poll, on the other hand, shows a slight dip in support for impeachment, down to 45 percent in support to 49 against.

These early October polls show a more mixed picture. It’s possible the episodes uncovered in this phase of the scandal felt like less of bombshells than the ones dropped in late September. But even with the slight dip in Quinnipiac’s poll, sentiment is still more solidly behind impeachment in this set than it was in the pre-call memo polling.

The news hasn’t stopped. Soon after the third round of polls were published, two of Giuliani’s associates were arrested for violating campaign finance violations. And a Fox News poll showed this week, for the first time, that a majority of registered voters supported Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.

While they have their shortcomings, polls effectively capture a snapshot of the national sentiment. And right now, it’s looking increasingly bleak for President Trump.

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