New Polling on Impeachment Shows One Way Forward for Democrats

Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) and Aidan Smith (@AidanSmith2019)

With seventy-nine-and-counting House Democrats on board despite pushback from leadership, the goal of removing Donald Trump from office becomes less fantastical as the prospect of a formal impeachment inquiry gains momentum. Long a goal of the party’s grassroots base, the reluctance of top House Democrats has not stopped the onslaught of calls for impeachment since the party regained its majority in the chamber this January. The prospect of removing a figure as polarizing as Trump from office is naturally a highly contentious topic, but backlash against the President’s recent erratic behavior has only furthered the case for impeachment. While Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to publicly spar with impeachment advocates such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, powerful actors within the Democratic establishment such as Rep. Adam Schiff appear to be inching towards lending their support to the cause, and Pelosi may end up succumbing to pressure from her left on this issue in an attempt to save her position.

As top Democrats ponder the political ramifications of impeachment, polling on the question of impeachment is naturally going to be a major part of their political calculus. Perhaps more important in the short term given the lengthy nature of the process, however, is polling on the question of even having an impeachment inquiry. Neglected in other national surveys, Data for Progress and By The People posited the question of whether or not a formal congressional inquiry into impeachment would be justified to a national audience. The question included an informative statement with the following wording:

“An impeachment inquiry would instruct members of Congress to hold proceedings to determine whether the President has upheld his oath of office or committed an impeachable offense, including violations of the Constitution, unlawful conduct, obstruction of justice, or abuses of power and of the public trust. Would you support or oppose the House of Representatives conducting an inquiry into whether President Donald Trump should be impeached?” 

 The survey polled 1,057 American voters from May 30th to June 3rd, 2019 and finds a narrow 47 percent to 43 percent plurality for an impeachment inquiry.

 
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What is the way forward for Democrats, given that no matter how the question is posed, the question of impeachment remains highly polarized on partisan grounds? With 82 percent of Democrats either somewhat or strongly in favor, Pelosi’s House majority risks losing its legitimacy as a check on the President if it declines to pursue an inquiry into impeachment. Given the catatonic nature of the Republican base’s support for Trump, impeachment will not serve to change the minds of his staunchest supporters, who strongly oppose a formal inquiry by a whopping 77 percent. In addition to being a just cause, impeachment is a necessary morale-booster for the Democratic base going into 2020, and if orchestrated properly, it might push some of the 10% of voters either unsure or apathetic at the prospect of impeachment into the Democrats’ column.         


Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) is a co-founder of Data for Progress.

Aidan Smith (@AidanSmith2019) is a writer and electoral analyst from Orange County, California.

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