Americans are split essentially even on impeaching Donald Trump and removing him from office, with criticism on both sides of the issue — toward Trump, for his response to the inquiry, and toward congressional Democrats for holding their initial hearings behind closed doors.
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Against the backdrop of impeachment, Trump’s job approval rating is stable and low, at 38% in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, with one notable result: a career low in approval among Republicans, 74%, down steeply from a career-high 87% in July.
The public is divided 49% to 47% on whether Congress should impeach Trump and remove him from office. Support for impeaching and removing Bill Clinton was lower, from 27% to 41% in ABC/Washington Post polls in 1998, with consistent majorities, 57% to 71%, opposed.
Support for removing Trump soared to 82% among Democrats, compared with 47% among independents and 18% among Republicans in the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Those are sharper partisan divisions than Clinton encountered two decades ago.
As noted, there are concerns about both sides — 58% disapprove of the way Trump has responded to the impeachment inquiry, while 50% disapprove of how the Democrats in Congress have handled it overall. Moreover, 65% say initial hearings should be public — a rebuke of House Democrats who they’re seeking to address in their vote Thursday for open hearings.
The public, by a 51% to 43% margin, said in the poll that by investigating Trump, congressional Democrats are mainly interested in hurting him politically rather than in upholding the Constitution. Yet by a wider margin, 55% to 36%, they also said the Republicans in Congress, in defending Trump, are more interested in helping him politically than in upholding the Constitution.
Nor does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi get much in the way of public acclaim. Her job approval rating, at 38%, is identical to Trump’s, although fewer disapprove — 48% vs. 58% — and are more are undecided.
Substantively, 55% think Trump did “something wrong” in his dealings with Ukraine while 47% think it was “seriously wrong,” a view closely related to support for impeachment. Many fewer, 35%, said he did nothing wrong, with 10% undecided.
Further, 60% say it was inappropriate for Trump to involve his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in U.S. policy toward Ukraine, with 83% of Democrats saying so and 61% of independents saying so, compared with 32% of Republicans.
Given the Ukraine controversy, support for action against Trump is higher than support last summer for Congress beginning impeachment proceedings on other issues. In July, 37% supported such proceedings, compared with 49% for impeachment and removal now.
The president’s challenges aren’t limited to the impeachment inquiry. More generally, 66% said that since taking office he’s acted in a way that’s unpresidential, and 58% said that’s been damaging to the presidency overall. Just 30% said he’s acted in a way that’s “fitting and proper for a president of the United States,” although that’s up from a low of 24% in July 2017.
This view intersects with attitudes on impeachment. Among those who said Trump’s acted in a way that’s fitting and proper for a president, 94% oppose his impeachment and removal. Among those who say he’s acted unpresidentially, 72% support it, and two-thirds feel strongly about it.
Another criticism, suggesting that Trump has used the office for personal gain, divides public sentiment. Half of Americans think he’s trying to use the presidency to increase profits at his hotels and golf courses — with nearly all of them calling this unacceptable — and 42% thinking he has not done this, with the rest undecided.
Again there’s a link to impeachment support: Removing Trump is backed by 81% of those who suspect him of trying to profit off the presidency vs. 12% among those who don’t.
Both views — seeing Trump as acting unpresidentially and as using his office for personal profit — emerge in statistical analyses as independent predictors of support for impeaching and removing him from office, controlling for partisanship, ideology and demographics. That said, it’s another view — that he did something wrong in his dealings with Ukraine — that’s the strongest predictor. As such, even in the face of partisan predisposition, perceptions of the merits of the case against Trump are likely to be key in public attitudes ahead.
Impeachment and Groups
Views on impeaching and removing Trump differ dramatically. In partisan terms, as noted, 82% of Democrats support this while 59% of Republicans supported impeaching and removing Clinton in an ABC News poll in November 1998. Clinton’s impeachment and removal also had less support from independents than Trump’s does today — 30% then vs. 47% now.
Among other groups, 56% of women support impeaching and removing Trump, compared with 42% of men, a 14-point gender gap that largely reflects partisan differences between women and men. There was a 9-point gender gap on Clinton in November 1998; 35% of men and 26% of women favored taking his job.
Impeachment and removal today has 20 points more support in urban than rural areas, with the suburbs between the two. It’s most popular by far among liberals, 79%, vs. 54% of moderates and 23% of conservatives. And it’s much less popular among whites at 39% than with people of other racial or ethnic backgrounds, among whom 66% support the president’s removal.
Among whites, support for impeachment ranges from 59% among college-educated white women to less than half that, 24%, among non-college-educated white men, a key Trump support group. There’s also a gap in support for impeachment between independent women, at 56%, and independent men, at 39%, a consistent gender gap in other views of Trump.
Even with the drama of potential impeachment aside, Trump’s overall job approval rating has been remarkably stable across his presidency — and unusually low. He’s ranged from 36% to 44% approval in 15 ABC/Washington Post polls during his presidency, averaging 39%. An average of 56% have disapproved of Trump.
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Trump is the first president since modern polling began more than 70 years ago never to have achieved majority approval in office, and his average rating is 21 points below the average for his predecessors dating to Harry Truman at this point in their presidencies. The closest to Trump was Jimmy Carter, at 48% average approval.
Trump’s decline from 44% approval in July to 38% now — it also was 38% in September — includes the drop among Republicans, noted above, from 87% to 74%. He’s also at just 22% approval among 18- to 29-year-olds, matching the low. Other divisions, e.g. by partisanship, race/ethnicity, education and urbanicity, reflect those seen on impeachment.
Along with Republicans, conservatives are Trump’s obvious mainstay, and another group to watch. From 77% job approval among conservatives in July, he’s gone to 67% today. At the same time, 27% of Republicans, and 32% of conservatives, disapprove of how he has responded to the impeachment inquiry. Mitigating doubts in his base is among the president’s tasks in the impeachment saga ahead.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Oct. 27-30, 2019, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.7 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 29-23-38%, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Maryland. See details on the survey’s methodology here.
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