The gray in the above graph shows the difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ approval ratings of the president. While in the past, partisan views of the president had moved up and down roughly in parallel, even through Bush’s presidency, views are now static — and distant from one another.
If we look solely at the average gap between the parties, there’s a clear trend since the Reagan presidency: The approval-ratings gap between members of the two parties has gone up and up and up. In 2019, that gap was an average of 82 points. That’s up 3 points from the 2018 figure, which at that time was a record gap.
The data important for the impeachment trial, though, is marked with vertical dashed lines in the above chart. We’ve marked each of the significant impeachment efforts over the last 100 years: those of Richard Nixon in 1974, Bill Clinton in 1998 to 1999 and that of Trump.
Nixon, facing imminent impeachment and likely removal, resigned. Clinton was impeached but survived a removal vote. Trump seems poised to do the same.
But notice the trends that preceded those events. The gap between the parties dropped before Nixon’s resignation — because Republicans soured on him, too. For Clinton, the gap grew: Democrats held steady while Republican views dropped. For Trump, as we said, everyone is sitting at opposite ends of the spectrum and not moving.
During the Clinton era, powered in part by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the gap in political ideologies in Congress grew quickly, too. The gap between the parties’ average ideological scores, as calculated by Voteview, hit a new high at the end of the Clinton presidency. That, too, continued to grow, spiking again under President Barack Obama.
The Trump impeachment comes at a moment when views of the president by party and congressional partisanship have never been further apart. To be removed from office (convicted on the charges of impeachment), Trump would need to see some 20 Republican senators vote against him. With Republican voters strongly supportive of Trump and a deep divide between the parties in the Senate — the widest ideological gap in the Senate on record — that’s almost certainly not going to happen.
As was obvious from the outset.