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Americans sharply divided over whether to impeach and remove Trump from office, Post-ABC poll finds

A divided House passed a resolution to formally proceed with its impeachment inquiry of President Trump, setting the stage for the first public hearings. (Video: Rhonda Colvin, Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

As the House moves to a new, more public phase of its impeachment inquiry, the country is sharply divided along partisan lines over whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The poll finds that 49 percent of Americans say the president should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent say he should not. That finding is almost identical to support for impeachment in a poll by The Post and the Schar School taken earlier in October.

Among Democrats, support for removing the president from office is overwhelming, with 82 percent in favor and 13 percent opposed. Among Republicans, it is almost the reverse, with 82 percent opposed and 18 percent in favor, even as the president’s approval rating reached a new low among members of his party. Independents are closely divided, with 47 percent favoring removal and 49 percent opposed.

Read the full Post-ABC poll results | See results by group

On Thursday, the House approved a resolution setting out the terms for the next phase of the inquiry, which to this point has included weeks of closed-door testimony. The resolution laid out plans for televised hearings with witnesses and rules and procedures for the examination of those witnesses.

The vote on that measure split along partisan lines in a House that is bitterly divided. All Republicans and two Democrats opposed the measure, with all other Democrats supporting it. Those divisions reflected the broader public sentiment highlighted in the Post-ABC poll and underscored the partisan warfare that will surround the inquiry as it moves forward.

The Fact Checker unravels what happened when Trump tried to force an investigation into the false rumor about then-Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine. (Video: The Washington Post)

Although the public is sharply divided on the ultimate question of Trump’s fate in the impeachment process, support for the proceedings has risen over the past few months. In a July Post-ABC survey, 37 percent of Americans said Congress should open an impeachment inquiry that could lead to Trump’s removal, with 59 percent opposed.

The current level of support for impeachment, though revealing the sharp divisions within the country, contrasts notably with attitudes during the process that led to the impeachment, but not removal from office, of former president Bill Clinton. Throughout the fall of 1998, support for impeachment never rose above 41 percent in Post-ABC surveys and stood at 33 percent in December that year, shortly before the House voted to impeach Clinton.

The July poll was taken after the release of the report by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the president sought to obstruct the Mueller investigation. That probe found multiple contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russians but no criminal conspiracy.

The July survey, however, came before recent revelations about the president’s alleged efforts to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into the 2016 election and into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Biden’s son served as a paid adviser on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was in office.

Several witnesses who have testified before the House Intelligence Committee have described a quid pro quo requested by Trump, with military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit by the newly elected Zelensky withheld over the summer as the president pressed Ukrainian leaders for an affirmative statement about the opening of investigations into his potential rival.

Most Americans judge what Trump did in that case as out of line. The latest survey finds 55 percent of Americans concluding that, regardless of their views on impeachment, Trump did something wrong in his dealings with Ukraine, including 47 percent saying that what he did was seriously wrong. Fewer, 35 percent, say he did nothing wrong, with the remaining 10 percent offering no opinion.

Overall, about 1 in 10 say he did something wrong but oppose impeachment.

There are even stronger objections to the role played by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and former mayor of New York. Witnesses have characterized Giuliani as running a shadow foreign policy with regard to Ukraine that operated outside the bounds of the administration’s regular chain of command.

Asked whether that was appropriate or not, 60 percent of Americans say it was not, with 31 percent saying it was. On that question, nearly a third of Republicans (32 percent) say Trump involving Giuliani in Ukraine policy was not appropriate, to go along with 83 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents.

The president enters the next phase of the impeachment process with approval ratings that are low but unchanged overall. Less than 4 in 10, or 38 percent, of Americans say they approve of the way he is handling his job, the same level as a survey in September. The numbers are almost identical among registered voters. Meanwhile, 58 percent disapprove of Trump’s job performance and 48 percent strongly disapprove.

Trump’s disapproval among independents stands at 57 percent and rises to 91 percent among self-identified Democrats.

Trump’s base of Republicans is less united in support, however, with 74 percent approving of his job performance, a record low in Post-ABC polls. That is not far from his previous low of 78 percent, most recently reached in April, and eight points lower than September’s figure among Republicans. Still, a 64 percent majority of Republicans “strongly approve” of the president, which is similar to 66 percent who said the same in September and higher than at some points in 2017.

The stability of Trump’s overall job approval rating suggests that although Americans may have become more supportive of impeachment, the intensifying House investigation and revelations about his actions involving Ukraine have led few Americans to change their opinions about his presidential performance. Trump continues to be rewarded with particularly strong support among those who have most emphatically supported him throughout his political career, including white men without college education and white evangelical Christians.

About two-thirds of Americans say Trump has acted in a way that is “unpresidential,” including 58 percent who say this is “damaging to the presidency overall.” Yet both figures are little different than during his first year in office, an indication that widespread frustrations have not worsened.

Overall, 9 percent of Americans both disapprove of Trump and oppose impeachment and removing him from office. A smaller 2 percent approve of Trump and say he should be impeached and removed from office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has led House Democrats to this point in the impeachment process, has an identical approval rating as Trump, at 38 percent positive. Her disapproval rating is 48 percent, 10 percentage points lower than Trump’s, and a sizable 14 percent offer no opinion.

Republicans have expressed strong objections to the decision by House Democrats to hold closed hearings during the initial phase of the impeachment inquiry and for weeks have demanded public hearings. But they voted against the measure Thursday, arguing that the rules proposed by Democrats do not give the president or Republicans adequate powers or protections in how the testimony will be conducted.

Democrats have said those hearings amount to the equivalent to grand jury proceedings, which are always behind closed doors. Asked about those initial hearings, 65 percent of Americans say the initial hearings should be held in public, with 33 percent saying closed-door testimony is acceptable.

Neither the president nor House Democrats draw majority support for the way they have handled things so far, although Democrats fare slightly better. Just over 4 in 10, or 43 percent, approve of the way House Democrats have proceeded to date, with 50 percent disapproving. An even smaller percentage (34 percent) say they approve of how the president has responded to the impeachment inquiry, with 58 percent disapproving.

Pelosi had long said that, to be successful, impeachment should be a bipartisan effort, but partisan perceptions have shaped all aspects of the proceedings so far and are likely to for the foreseeable future, as the poll indicates. Americans see both sides as more motivated by political considerations than by constitutional prerogatives.

Currently, 51 percent of Americans say the Democrats are investigating Trump because they are mainly interested in hurting him politically, while 43 percent say they are mainly interested in upholding the Constitution.

Slightly more Americans (55 percent) say Republicans are more motivated by their desire to help Trump politically, while 36 percent said GOP lawmakers are mainly interested in upholding the Constitution.

Support for impeachment splits along gender as well as partisan lines, with a 14-point gap between men and women. Among women, 56 percent support impeachment and removal of the president. Among men, support for that stands at 42 percent.

Among age groups, the lowest level of support (at 37 percent) is among those ages 40 to 49. Younger adults are most favorable toward impeachment and removal, with 58 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds saying they support that course.

The poll also highlights different attitudes based on race and education. A smaller 39 percent of whites support impeachment and removal, compared with 66 percent of nonwhites, including 76 percent of African Americans.

Among white college graduates, 39 percent of men support impeachment, while 59 percent of women favor it. Among whites without college degrees, less than a quarter, or 24 percent of men and 41 percent of women, say they support impeachment.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone from Oct. 27-30 among a random national sample of 1,003 adults, 65 percent of whom were reached on cellphones and 35 percent on landlines. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.