CNN is out with a new poll showing that less than three months after word of the Ukraine scandal surfaced, the support for impeachment is remarkably high. Fifty percent say President Trump should be impeached and removed, while 43 percent say he shouldn’t. Support for the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon did not reach this level until very late in the process, as FiveThirtyEight recounts:

When the House of Representatives voted in February 1974 to give the House Judiciary Committee subpoena power to investigate Nixon, it did not have the weight of public opinion behind it. According to a poll conducted by Gallup just days before the vote, only 38 percent of Americans were in favor of impeachment. . . .
As Nixon’s approval ratings fell, support for impeachment was rising more gradually, reaching solid majority support by early August 1974. That was right in the midst of the crucial two-week period when the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the White House tapes, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve three articles of impeachment and Nixon released the transcript of what became known as the “smoking gun” tape, which showed that he had helped orchestrate the cover-up.

Much is being made of the fact that the numbers in the CNN poll in favor of and opposed to impeachment have not moved since October, when they were quite high for that stage in the process. But while “views on impeachment and removal have not moved, the poll finds that 53% say Trump improperly used his office to gain political advantage, up from 49% who said the same in October. More, 56%, say the President’s efforts to get Ukraine to launch investigations into the Biden family, a Ukrainian energy company and the 2016 election were more to benefit himself politically than to fight Ukrainian corruption.”

The public also feels that Democrats have handled the impeachment proceedings better than Republicans: “a narrow majority (52%) say the Democrats have exercised their constitutional powers properly during the impeachment inquiry, 40% say they have abused their constitutional powers. A third of Americans say the Republicans in Congress are doing too much to defend Trump (33%), while 17% say they are doing too little and 41% say they’re doing the right amount to defend Trump.”

As we have seen in other polling, those paying attention carefully have a higher level of support for impeachment. (This might be because pro-impeachment Americans are gleefully lapping up as much of the hearing coverage as possible.) “About 4 in 10 say they are following the proceedings ‘very closely,’ and among that group, support for impeachment and removal (53% say yes, 46% say no) is a bit higher than it is overall. This more-attentive group is also more likely to say that there is enough evidence now for the House to vote to send the case to trial before the Senate (52% say yes, 48% no).”

The test is not whether a couple of weeks of hearings move unpersuadable Republicans but whether, through the process, from depositions to hearings to a report to a vote on articles of impeachment to a Senate trial, support for impeachment gradually builds.

Moreover, if you look at the poll averages compiled by FiveThirtyEight, you do see a slight uptick in support over the last week. On Nov. 20, in the polls it sampled support for impeachment and removal averaged 46.5 percent and against at 45.5. As of today, support is at 48.2 and opposition at 44 percent.

Many in the media infamously intoned that the public would never support impeachment. Then came the whistleblower and one revelation after another. We have just begun the process, so instead of writing off the grave obligation of impeachment as useless and public opinion as intractable, maybe the media should cover the story, explain the facts, analyze the historical and constitutional issues, and watch what happens. Maybe the public is more open to new information than is the jaded media.

Read more: