By focusing on impeachment polling, Trump picks the wrong fight

Over the last week or so, Donald Trump has focused his attention nearly every day on public-opinion polls related to his impeachment. The president usually responds to discouraging data by insisting pollsters are part of a conspiracy to make him look bad, but this week, the Republican has been reduced to making up imagined polls that he claims show broad opposition to his impeachment.

Trump kept this going during his campaign rally in south Florida last night.

“They’re pushing that impeachment witch hunt, and a lot of bad things are happening to them,” Trump told rallygoers. “Because you see what’s happening with the polls? Everybody said, ‘That’s really bulls**t.’”

The crowd erupted into a cheer and began chanting “bulls**t,” echoing the president.

Putting aside the oddity of hearing a presidential crowd chant a profanity, Trump seems almost desperate for people to believe impeachment is unpopular. Maybe he believes it, maybe he hopes Democrats will change direction if they fear a backlash, or maybe the president thinks he can make a falsehood true by simply asserting it, over and over again.

Whatever the motivation, there are a couple of ways to look at the latest data. According to the latest figures from FiveThirtyEight’s tally, public support for impeaching Trump and removing him from office is between 45% and 50%. That’s roughly where the numbers have been since early October.

To be sure, it’d be a mistake to look at these results and describe the impeachment effort as wildly popular, but at the same time, the president’s frequent assertions that the American public is turning on the idea are plainly wrong.

All of which leads us to the other angle: historical context.

George Conway yesterday flagged a Gallup poll from late July 1974, released just 11 days before Richard Nixon was forced to announce he would resign in disgrace. The survey found at the time that 46% of Americans wanted to see the corrupt Republican removed from office.

More than 45 years later, CNN released a poll this week that found 50% of Americans want to see Trump impeached and removed from office.

When was the last time half the country wanted to see a sitting president impeached and removed from office? Pretty much never. Since the dawn of modern American polling, this is the first time.

Trump may find solace in the fact that support for polling isn’t already higher, but the news is far less encouraging than he seems to realize: public support for his ouster is extraordinary from a historical perspective.