The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Americans locked in partisan stalemate on removing Trump from office, Post-ABC poll finds

A new poll finds that weeks of testimony and hearings in the House haven’t changed Americans’ minds about whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

As the House prepares to vote on two articles of impeachment against President Trump, Americans remain both deeply divided and locked into their positions over which course lawmakers should pursue, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Weeks of public testimony and days of rancorous committee hearings on the president’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian leaders to investigate a political rival have had no impact on how Americans see the charges pending against the president.

Despite the stalemate, most Democrats and Republicans alike expect that a likely Senate impeachment trial will give Trump a fair hearing. Bipartisan majorities, including almost 2 in 3 Republicans, also say he should allow his top aides to testify, something he blocked during the House inquiry.

On the eve of the House vote, 49 percent of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 46 percent say he should not. Those are essentially identical to findings at the end of October, when 49 percent favored impeachment and removal and 47 percent opposed. The latest poll also finds that regardless of whether Trump committed an impeachable offense, 49 percent say he improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, while 39 percent say Trump did not do this.

[Read full poll results | See results by group]

Among Democrats, 85 percent say Trump should be impeached and removed, while 86 percent of Republicans say he should not. Independents split 47 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. Republican support for impeachment has slipped from 18 percent in October to 12 percent today.

Beyond the partisan distinctions, there are gender, age, educational and racial differences on the question of whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office. A 53 percent majority of women favor it, while the same percentage of men oppose it. A majority of nonwhite Americans support it, while a smaller majority of whites are opposed. A slim majority of whites with college degrees favor impeachment and removal, while those without degrees oppose it. And a majority of Americans under age 40 support it, while those over age 65 are closely divided, and a majority of those in between are opposed.

The outcome of the impeachment proceeding at this point appears preordained, with the Democratic-controlled House expected to vote for the two articles, largely along party lines, and the Republican-controlled Senate expected to acquit the president at the end of a trial in that chamber. The Senate trial is expected to begin in early January.

The lack of drama about the expected outcome and the highly partisan nature of the proceedings have resulted in fewer Americans saying they are paying close attention to this impeachment episode than said so in 1998 during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

The Post-ABC poll finds that 62 percent say they are closely following the developments surrounding Trump, compared with 82 percent who said they were closely following the impeachment proceedings in December 1998. In the current poll, 18 percent say they are not following impeachment too closely, while 20 percent say they are not following it at all. In 1998, the numbers were lower in both of those cases, with just 5 percent saying they were paying no attention.

The roughly even split over whether Trump should be impeached and removed also contrasts with public opinion during the Clinton impeachment. At that time, by nearly 2 to 1, Americans said they opposed impeaching and removing Clinton from office. Nonetheless, the House voted to impeach; he was later acquitted in the Senate.

At the time of the Clinton impeachment, there were discussions about a possible censure as an alternative punishment. Though the public largely opposed Clinton’s impeachment, they favored censure or a formal reprimand for his conduct by a more than 20 percentage-point margin.

One sign of the hardening of partisan lines is that, in the case of Trump, support for censure is not statistically higher than support for impeachment. The new poll finds that 51 percent say that, apart from impeachment, Trump should be censured or reprimanded, while 42 percent say he should not.

Trump would be only the third president impeached by a vote of the House, along with Clinton and Andrew Johnson in 1868, although he is the fourth to have had articles of impeachment voted out of a House committee. In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency before the articles went to the full House.

Trump faces votes on two articles, one describing abuse of power for what he did with regard to Ukraine and the other for obstructing Congress because of his resistance to supplying documents or allowing the testimony of witnesses requested or subpoenaed by House committees.

Setting aside the question of whether his conduct rises to the level of impeachment, Americans were asked whether Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was improper and whether he tried to interfere with the impeachment investigation. As with the question on the Bidens, 49 percent say he tried to interfere, while 43 percent say no.

Democrats and Republicans hold mirror opposite views on specific charges against Trump. In the view of Republicans, 78 percent say the president did not improperly pressure Ukraine and 85 percent say he did not obstruct Congress. Among Democrats, 80 percent say Trump improperly pressured Ukraine and 82 percent say he obstructed Congress.

Most Americans say they believe that the proceedings before the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee have been fair to the president, with 55 percent saying the hearings have been fair and 38 percent saying they have been unfair. That is virtually identical to public assessments of the proceedings before the House Judiciary Committee during Clinton’s impeachment, and runs counter to Trump’s repeated complaint that he has been treated unfairly.

But if people say the process has been fair, they nonetheless give negative reviews to the principal actors. More than half, 53 percent, say they disapprove of the way the president has handled the inquiry, 52 percent disapprove of the congressional Republicans’ handling of it, and 50 percent disapprove of how congressional Democrats have handled it.

The impeachment hearings will move to the Senate in the new year just as the presidential contest approaches its first votes, with the Democratic field including five senators. Senate leaders have not yet set out a timetable or the rules that will govern the trial, at which Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will be the presiding officer.

As Americans look toward that phase, just over 6 in 10 say they are confident that the president will receive a fair trial. On this question, there is rare agreement across political lines, with 62 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of independents expressing confidence in the proceedings.

While the White House has prevented senior administration officials from appearing before the House committees conducting the impeachment investigation, a large 71 percent majority of Americans say the president should allow those officials to testify at a Senate trial. That includes majorities across partisan and demographic lines.

Among Democrats, 79 percent say Trump should let his advisers appear before the Senate, while 64 percent of Republicans agree. Among independents, 72 percent favor their appearance. There is also sizable agreement among men and women, whites and nonwhites, and all age groups, contrary to the divisions over impeachment itself.

This Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone from Dec. 10-15 among a random national sample of 1,003 adults, 70 percent of whom were reached on cellphones and 30 percent on landlines. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.