There’s no doubt Democrats in Washington are hell-bent on impeaching President Trump over the Ukraine matter. But after weeks of polling, it is still unclear precisely what Americans outside the Beltway think.
Much depends on how pollsters ask their questions. Some are straightforward, while others are a bit more complicated. But in the last few weeks, many have asked a variation of: “Do you support or oppose impeaching President Trump?”
A new poll, however, done by Suffolk University for USA Today, gets at some of the nuance behind public opinion on the president and Ukraine.
The Suffolk pollsters gave 1,000 registered voters an opportunity to choose among three options regarding impeachment. Which did respondents personally prefer?
“A. The House of Representatives should vote to impeach President Trump.
“B. The House should continue investigating Trump, but not vote to impeach him.
“C. Congress should drop its investigations into President Trump and administration.”
Thirty-six percent of those polled said the House should vote to impeach; 22 percent said the House should continue investigation but not impeach; and 37 percent said the House should drop its investigations. The last 5 percent did not have an answer or refused to give one.
Looking inside the results, there are some major differences based on party, gender, race and more.
Seventy percent of Democrats said the House should vote to impeach, while just 8 percent of Republicans and 22 percent of independents favored an impeachment vote.
Twenty-one percent of Democrats favored more investigation but not impeachment, while 15 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of independents agreed.
And just 8 percent of Democrats favored dropping the House investigations altogether, while 71 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of independents favored the no-more-investigations option.
Forty-one percent of women supported a House vote to impeach, while just 31 percent of men did. (Nearly equal numbers of women and men, 22 and 23 percent, respectively, wanted to see the investigation continue without impeachment.) Forty-two percent of men wanted to see the investigation dropped entirely, versus 32 percent of women.
Thirty percent of the white voters and 38 percent of Hispanic voters polled wanted a House impeachment vote, versus 73 percent of black voters. Forty-five percent of white voters wanted the matter dropped, along with 28 percent of Hispanic voters, while just 7 percent of black voters favored that result.
The overall message of the poll is that there is a range of opinions among voters that is more complex than much of the yes-impeach-no-don’t-impeach commentary in the media today. But the Suffolk questions do leave at least one issue unclear.
The opinions of those who want a House impeachment vote, as well as those who want the House to drop its investigations altogether, are pretty clear. But what about those who say the House should “continue investigating Trump, but not vote to impeach him”? Does “not” mean not vote ever? Does it mean impeach if new evidence is discovered? Or just exercise oversight?
Fortunately, another question in the poll sheds some light on that. It is about the infamous phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:
“The White House has released a transcript summary of a July 25th phone call in which President Trump encouraged the Ukrainian president to pursue investigations involving Democratic rival Joe Biden, and hacking allegations in the 2016 election. Which comes closest to your view? A. The phone conversation is an impeachable offense. B. The phone conversation was wrong, but doesn’t rise to an impeachable offense. C. There was nothing wrong with the phone conversation.”
Thirty-eight percent said the conversation is an impeachable offense. Twenty-one percent said the conversation was wrong, but not impeachable. And 31 percent said there was nothing wrong with the conversation. Ten percent were undecided.
That means, at the moment, according to Suffolk, there is a bare majority that does not believe Trump should be impeached for the phone call — which, of course, is the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment effort. The number that believes the call is an impeachable offense, 38 percent, is well below what could be called a groundswell. The 10 percent who haven’t decided are important.
The Suffolk numbers suggest many Americans hold complex views of the Trump impeachment. Some are fine with continued investigation, although large numbers don’t believe they have yet seen an impeachable offense. The numbers of people who are ready to impeach Trump now, or who believe the whole thing should be called off, are not big enough to win the day.
Just as they did after the release of the Mueller report, Democrats now hope televised hearings will convince Americans that the president must be impeached. It didn’t work out before. Now, the Suffolk poll suggests Democrats should be cautious as they try again.