The poll was completed before the impeachment hearing began on Jan. 21. Opinion was mixed as to whether the Senate Republicans would conduct a fair trial. “About half of Americans (48%) are at least somewhat confident that Senate Democrats will be fair and reasonable, while slightly fewer (43%) say the same about the Senate GOP.” After watching Republicans’ antics and refusal (so far) to allow witnesses, voters may take a dim view of their handling of the trial. Over half (51 percent) want Trump removed, while 46 percent do not.
As for Trump, his approval/disapproval remains relatively steady at 40 percent approve, 59 percent disapprove. Moreover, “Overall, 52% say they trust what Trump says less than what previous presidents said while in office; 26% say they trust what Trump says more and 22% say they trust what he says about the same as they trusted what previous presidents said.”
The numbers tell us that a significant percentage of Republicans approve of Trump’s performance (80 percent) for reelection even if they think he acted illegally (32 percent) or unethically (47 percent). That is what blind loyalty to a cultlike leader looks like.
Trump’s approval/disapproval remains badly underwater with women (37/62 percent), college grads (35/64 percent) and whites with college degrees (36/63 percent). Whites without college degrees, one of his strongest sources of support, are still in his corner (59/40), although white women, who supported him in 2016, have drifted away (48/51).
More alarmingly for Trump, he trails several Democratic contenders in head-to-head matchups. In a recent poll from CNN, he loses to former vice president Joe Biden by 9 points, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont by 7 points and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts by 5 points.
There are several takeaways from this batch of data. First, voters are more divided on whether to remove him than on whether he did something illegal. That may be because they think the illegal things are not impeachable or simply because they are queasy about removal. Second, so far impeachment is not noticeably affecting opinion about Trump, but the conduct of the trial might change that, or more importantly, impact voters’ feelings about the Senate. While Trump wants the trial to be over quickly, vulnerable senators know their own performance is in the spotlight.
Finally, hardcore Republicans will not break with him even if they are compelled to admit he broke the law or acted unethically. He is their crook or scoundrel. That does not mean, however, that there aren’t ex-Republicans who now call themselves independents or Democrats and Republicans who will stay home rather than vote for Trump. It’s Democrats’ job to go get those persuadables, whom they lost in 2016.