Democratic presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, became the first Democratic contender to float impeachment of President Trump in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s now-finished investigation into Russian election interference. It remains to be seen just how palatable such proceedings would be to the American public now that the full report has been delivered and covered extensively in cable news for the last few days, but recent survey data suggest impeachment would likely be a tough sell in the current environment.
For starters, the president’s approval rating remains solid and consistent, unchanged from the first round of Attorney General Barr’s four-page summary: it clocks in at 45% in both the latest Fox News poll and in Gallup’s latest weekly tracking. Though Trump has scored slightly higher approval in the Fox poll (48% in February 2017), his 45% in the Gallup poll is tied for his highest recorded rating as measured by that outfit. What’s more, this Gallup read of Trump’s approval rating marked a sharp improvement over the prior read from March, when his approval rating was deep underwater at 39% approve/57% disapprove.
Now to the question of impeachment itself: in CNN’s March 14-17 poll, just 36% said they believed Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 59% reported they did not feel that way. We should note, of course, that this was prior to the completion of the Mueller Report, so it is possible that those numbers would look different today. Still, the fact that in the same poll only 32% approved and 57% disapproved of Trump’s handling of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election indicates that voters can disapprove of his handling of this issue without also calling for his impeachment and removal from office over it.
Importantly, the 36% in favor of impeachment in the aforementioned CNN poll marks a low on that particular measure: support for Trump’s impeachment reached as high as 47% in September 2018. What this 36% figure means is that support for impeachment is reaching relatively “normal” levels by historical standards. In July 2014, for instance, 33% believed Barack Obama should be impeached, and in September 2006, 30% called for George W. Bush’s impeachment. Support for Bill Clinton’s impeachment and removal stood at 29% in September 1998.
The March 2019 NBC-WSJ survey, for which POS is the Republican partner, tells a similar story. Just 16% say there is enough evidence for Congress to begin impeachment hearings now; 33% say it should continue investigating to see if there is enough evidence to hold such hearings in the future; and 47% say Congress should not hold impeachment hearings.
Crucially, Trump has a significant failsafe in his strong support among Republicans. In the Fox poll, 88% of Republicans approved of his job performance. The data is much the same in the Gallup read, with approval among Republicans at 89%. Looking at it longitudinally, in his first year, from January 2017-January 2018, Trump averaged 83% support among Republicans. During his second year in office, from January 2018-January 2019, Republican approval stood at an average of 87%.
This Republican support extends to the specific question of impeachment. The NBC-WSJ survey shows that just 16% of Republicans support either beginning hearings now or continuing to investigate to see if there is enough evidence to hold impeachment hearings. Conversely, 83% say Congress should not hold impeachment hearings.
In the absence of further data on the Mueller Report and its potential implications for Trump’s presidency, it’s safe to say that the political environment renders Warren’s call for impeachment a very tough sell. Trump boasts solid approval ratings, sky-high support among his party, and an impeachment “score” that is nothing too out of the ordinary for American politics.