A new poll suggests there’s certainly some juicing going on — of a rather ridiculous sort.
Trump on Thursday promoted a new McLaughlin poll on impeachment. The headline for McLaughlin and Trump was that Americans saw impeachment as an effort to prevent Trump’s reelection, believed Trump shouldn’t cooperate with it and said Democrats are wasting everyone’s time.
How did McLaughlin arrive at these results? With slanted questions, of course.
The last finding — that Americans say almost 2 to 1 that impeachment is a waste of time — would be quite the finding. Other polls have shown a majority of Americans support impeaching and in some cases even removing Trump, after all, so how can it be that so many also see a process they support as a waste of time?
Here’s how. Look at the question:
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Impeaching President Trump is a waste of time and tax dollars and it will ultimately go nowhere, so the Democrats should focus on working with Republicans to solve our nation’s problems rather than focusing on trying to impeach President Trump.”
So the options are essentially: Do something that is costly and pointless, or work together to “solve our nation’s problems.” Who wouldn’t choose the latter? The question, of course, ignores that fact that Congress was gridlocked regardless of impeachment, so it’s kind of a false choice. And very few people are going to disagree with the idea that Congress should focus on curing the nation’s ills.
The first finding is that Americans say 52 percent to 36 percent that impeachment is being done for political reasons rather than legal ones. Here, again, the phrasing is something:
Do you think that Nancy Pelosi and the House Demcrats are moving forward with their impeachment inquiry against President Trump mainly for political reasons to stop him from being re-elected or mainly for legal reasons?
This is a neat trick. Other polls have suggested that, regardless of how many Americans support impeachment, they do see it as a political process. And that’s probably because, well, it is. So McLaughlin takes that and adds the phrase “to stop him from being re-elected.” Suddenly, all those people who pretty rightly see this as a political process are also signing on to the premise that Democrats are mostly just trying to unseat Trump. (Which, maybe! But why wouldn’t they want to prevent the reelection of someone they view as having committed “high crimes and misdemeanors”?)
The most offensive of the questions, though, is this one. It may sound like an exaggerated paraphrase, but this is how the question was posed, verbatim:
Historic precedent has always been that to begin an impeachment inquiry the House of representatives [sic] has always held a vote. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are now breaking with precedent to conduct a purely partisan impeachment. In your opinion do you think that unless Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats hold a vote, the President is right NOT to cooperate with this inquiry?
Where to even begin? First off, it’s true that the House held votes to launch impeachment inquiries in the cases of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. But it’s less apparent that it was explicitly authorized in the third case, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in the 1860s. Plus, there is very little precedent here, period, and there is no requirement that the House conduct such a vote.
Second, the idea that this is a “purely partisan impeachment” isn’t even in the question; instead, it’s thrown out as an ironclad fact. This is … not how polling is done. If you’re going to assert something like that, you at least give a people a chance to agree or disagree with the premise.
And here’s the kicker: Despite both of these premises being dodgy, somehow the poll registers less than a majority support for Trump not cooperating with the impeachment inquiry. It’s still 47 percent. That’s pretty remarkable.
But it’s perhaps what we should expect, given that straighter, more legitimate polls show this question isn’t really close. A CBS News poll last week showed Americans agreed 63 percent to 37 percent that Trump should cooperate with the probe.
This poll, of course, is a messaging device rather than something intended for Trump’s personal use. That’s why it was released publicly. But you have to wonder how slanted some of the internal stuff is, too, given that Trump doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite for bad polling news.