The latest Fox News poll should be worrisome to anyone who thinks that the Democrats’ impeachment push will backfire on them. They, and not President Donald Trump, are winning the hearts and minds of the public at the moment. In the end, that’s all that will matter when it comes to how the impeachment drama turns out.
The poll found that 51% now think Trump should be impeached and removed from office. That is a stunning turnaround in just a few weeks. The same poll taken in July found that only 42% wanted to see Trump removed from office.
The IBD/TIPP poll — which corrected predicted Trump’s victory in 2016 — found that 50% “see Trump’s actions as rising to the level of an impeachable offense,”
It’s certainly possible to read too much into these and the other polls showing the public increasingly backing Trump’s impeachment (an average of poll results on impeachment by FiveThirtyEight finds that 49.3% back impeachment)
After all, Trump’s approval rating has barely budged since the latest impeachment frenzy took off. As a matter of fact, his favorability rating today is essentially identical to President Barack Obama’s at the same point in his first term in office in the Gallup tracking poll – 40% for Trump compared with 41% for Obama.
The Real Clear Politics average has Trump’s job approval at 43.2%. That’s down from 45% in late September, but still better than it’s been for most of his presidency. At the start of this year, for example, his RCP average approval rating was only 41%.
But dismissing this latest poll as insignificant is foolhardy.
The Fox poll found, for example, that 13% of Republicans say they support Trump’s removal from office, which is up by five points since July. Unless the poll’s methodology is off, that is a deeply troubling number.
Trump and his defenders seem to believe that the Democrats’ rush to impeachment will unquestionably backfire on them. It won’t drive Trump from office. It will make them look desperate to oust him at any cost. And it will dramatically energize the GOP base. Just look at the money pouring into his campaign coffers right now.
Maybe so. But this is based on one huge assumption: namely, that the Senate would never vote to remove Trump based on whatever articles of impeachment the House sends over.
What happens if support for Trump’s removal continues to build, particularly among independents and especially among Republican voters? Anyone who thinks Republicans won’t cave to that pressure hasn’t been paying attention to the spinelessness of GOP Senators for the past, oh, ever. (It was Senate Republicans, remember, who saved Obamacare from the ax when they thought public support for that misbegotten law had solidified.)
Thankfully, the Founders set the impeachment bar extremely high. In this case, 19 Republicans would have to vote to remove Trump for it to succeed. But even if Trump isn’t ousted, there’s the possibility that impeachment so thoroughly taints his presidency that the voters decides it’s their turn to remove him from office at the ballot box.
The real danger for Trump isn’t that he overreacts to the impeachment proceedings, but that he doesn’t take the process seriously enough to try to convince more than his hard-core base that the charges are completely meritless.
Right now, Trump is losing that public relations battle. If he doesn’t come to grips with this fact, he might lose the war as well.
UPDATE: Any time a poll comes out that produces unfavorable results, everyone suddenly becomes a polling expert. Several readers complained in the comments below that the Fox News poll was unreliable because it supposedly oversampled Democrats. But now we have a Gallup poll finding that 52% back Trump’s impeachment and removal. Just to be clear, we aren’t supporting this, but even Trump’s most ardent supporters must face the reality of the situation sooner or later.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board
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