Public Support For Impeachment Grows After Nancy Pelosi Backs Inquiry

Here's the latest on polling on Trump, Ukraine, and impeachment — and why measuring public opinion about it all is so complicated.

Support for impeaching President Trump, especially among Democrats, is up modestly in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) announcement that she supports an “official impeachment inquiry,” a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds.

Trying to gauge public opinion about a poorly understood, fast-moving story rarely lends itself to easy takeaways. Polls on impeachment vary massively depending on how they’re worded, and tracking polls can and do fluctuate even when there’s no underlying cause. Other surveys released this week don’t yet add up to a clear consensus about how Americans are reacting to the latest news.

What is clear, however, is that support for impeachment shows no signs of going away, especially among Trump’s opponents, that opinions remain deeply polarized and that only a small minority of the public is willing to defend Trump’s latest actions outright.

In the HuffPost/YouGov survey, taken between Tuesday night and Thursday morning, Americans say by an 8-point margin, 47% to 39%, that they support impeaching and removing President Trump from office. That’s up from a 2-point margin earlier this month, and the widest margin of support of any HuffPost/YouGov survey taken since this spring.

Ariel Edwards-Levy/HuffPost

The shift this month appears mainly due to increased support among Democrats, whose support for impeachment rose from 74% earlier in September to 81% in the latest poll. Support from independents remained largely stable, clocking in at 35% in the previous poll and 37% in the latest. Republican support has, if anything, ticked down, from 16% earlier in September to 11% at present.

Some Democrats may be changing their minds in reaction to the latest news, but it’s likely they’re also following the cues of their increasingly united party leaders. About three-quarters of Democrats now say that they believe most or all congressional Democrats support impeachment, up from 59% who said the same earlier this month.

Those sorts of elite cues are important because, as the HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, there’s still significant public uncertainty about both the impeachment process and the details of the latest controversy. Only about half of Americans know that a successful impeachment vote in the House would be followed by a trial in the Senate.

And although Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president, during which he pressed for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, is the touchstone for congressional Democrats’ current impeachment push, that’s not necessarily what’s motivating everyone who backs the process. Only 37% of Americans said they’d heard a lot about the call, with a fifth saying they’d heard nothing at all. Just 39% of Americans say that phone call specifically justifies impeaching Trump, with a virtually identical 38% saying it doesn’t. Nearly a quarter aren’t sure.

That’s not to say that the public doesn’t view the call largely in a negative light. Americans say, 52% to 23%, that it’s inappropriate for Trump to ask the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden’s son, with another 24% not sure. About half call the conversation at least a “somewhat serious” problem, although only about a third say it’s very serious. Americans say, 43% to 28%, that they don’t believe most politicians in the U.S. would be willing to ask a foreign government to investigate a political opponent.

Opinions are starkly divided along partisan lines, although Democrats are more unanimous in their condemnation of Trump than Republicans are in his defense. More than 80% of Democrats say it’s inappropriate for Trump to ask Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s son, and about three-quarters say the call is at least a somewhat serious problem.

By contrast, about half of Republicans say it’s appropriate for Trump to ask Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s son, with only 19% calling it outright inappropriate, and only about a fifth thinking it poses even a somewhat serious problem. Independents, meanwhile, ostensibly the group most open to changing their minds about Trump (most, in fact, lean generally toward one party or the other), are also the least likely to be paying close attention.

Ariel Edwards-Levy/HuffPost

When measuring public opinion on an issue or campaign, it’s always a good idea to look at multiple polls when possible. Sometimes, those polls will largely agree; impeachment, for reasons we’ve explained previously, is not one of those times. In the past month, other surveys have found respondents opposing impeachment by as much as 20 points. The HuffPost/YouGov poll stands out in finding outright support for impeachment, which could mean either that it’s among the first to reflect real movement in the wake of new developments, or that it’s simply something of an outlier.

Here’s a summary of what a few other surveys released earlier this week show:

A separate YouGov poll conducted Tuesday found that 55% of Americans would support impeachment “if President Trump suspended military aid to Ukraine in order to push the country’s officials to investigate Joe Biden” ― but that’s a fraught hypothetical, given that many of Trump’s backers are likely to buy his denial of any quid pro quo. Quinnipiac University polling conducted from last Thursday through Monday put voters’ support for impeachment at 37%, a 4-point uptick from June, but still well in the red. And a Politico/Morning Consult poll that ran this Tuesday through Thursday — the only survey besides the HuffPost/YouGov poll to be taken entirely after Pelosi’s announcement — found that 43% of voters now want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings, up 7 points since late last week. That poll found rising support among independents as well as Democrats.

Other surveys, meanwhile, have found public opinion remaining basically stable. A tracking poll from the Democratic pollster Civiqs found that voters’ support for impeachment has stayed at about 45% since May. In a Reuters/Ipsos survey taken Monday and Tuesday, support for impeachment stood at 37%, slightly lower than it had been earlier in the month, or following the release of the Mueller Report.

In short, there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the actual details of the latest impeachment inquiry and how the public is responding. As the former takes clearer shape, the latter should as well.

Use this link to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Sept. 24-26 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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