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New Poll: Majority Favors Impeachment Inquiry

Americans approve of impeachment hearings, but are not yet sold on impeachment itself.

Last week, a Morning Consult poll showed that opinions on impeachment were split as news of Donald Trump’s secret phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky became public knowledge. This week kicks off with a new poll that confirms the earlier survey and reveals that approval of an impeachment inquiry has continued to rise to the point where a majority of Americans now support impeachment hearings. The new CBS News poll found that 55 percent of Americans now support the impeachment inquiry while only 45 percent disapprove.

As you would expect, there is a partisan split on the issue. Almost 90 percent of Democrats support the inquiry, which is not surprising, but the fact that 25 percent of Republicans approve is very surprising. Independents are almost evenly split at 49-51 percent.

Favoring an impeachment inquiry, however, does not automatically translate into support for impeachment. A plurality, 42 percent, does believe that Trump deserves to be impeached based on current information while 22 percent say it’s too soon to say. Thirty-six percent, which is heavily skewed toward Republicans, say that impeachment is not warranted. At this point, independents oppose impeachment. By 41-35 percent, independents are not yet convinced that impeachment is justified, but 24 percent are still undecided.

When asked about the legality of Trump’s actions, more than 70 percent say that they were either illegal or improper. This includes 42 percent of Republicans and 95 percent of Democrats.

Of the total, 41 percent say that Trump acted illegally while 31 percent say that his actions were improper. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans called the president’s actions “proper” while 35 percent said that they were “not proper, but legal.” Democrats overwhelmingly (77 percent) say the president broke the law while independents were split almost evenly into thirds with 36 percent saying Trump’s request for a favor was illegal, 34 percent saying it was improper, and 30 percent calling it proper.

When asked whether the request for a favor was business-as-usual or atypical, most Americans said that it was “something that few or no other presidents have done.” Fifty-seven percent said it was an aberration while 43 percent called it “the kind of thing most presidents probably do.” The partisan split on this question was as expected with independents again split almost evenly. A slight majority of independents (52 percent) said Trump’s actions are not normal diplomacy.

The big picture from the poll is, first, that it confirms that support for impeachment has surged as the details of Trump’s phone call have emerged. While most Americans support the inquiry, not all are sold on impeachment with a significant number still undecided.

Any relief that Republicans feel from the split on impeachment should be tempered by the fact that more than 70 percent of Americans believe that Trump’s actions were either improper or illegal. That does not bode well for the president’s re-election campaign even though he seems likely to survive a Senate removal vote.

Although more polling is sure to come, the surveys so far seem to suggest that the Republican strategy of attacking the Bidens and the credibility of the whistleblower is not working well. If the Trump Administration wants to avert disaster, they will need to convince the public that Trump’s actions were not illegal or unethical. So far, they have not done so.

Republicans also need to rein in the president. Mr. Trump’s Twitter meltdown over the weekend did not help his case. When the president starts alluding to the possibility of civil war if he is removed from office and accusing his congressional critics of “fraud and treason,” he comes across as a crazy person. That sort of behavior is likely to push more Americans into the pro-impeachment column.

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