A few hours before the U.S. House voted to impeach Donald Trump, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found a divided public: “Forty-eight percent of Americans believe that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while an equal 48 percent say they disagree.” That’s largely in line with the latest overall national averages, which show little difference between the two constituencies.
But the poll also included a question that I haven’t seen asked in many other surveys. From the NBC News report:
Asked to explain their feelings over whether to impeach and remove Trump from office, 25 percent of all respondents (including 55 percent of Republicans) say the president has not done anything wrong.
An additional 22 percent (including 35 percent of Republicans) say that he may have done something wrong but that it doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment.
Forty-four percent of Americans (including 79 percent of Democrats) believe his actions before the Ukraine controversy had already been grounds for impeachment.
And 8 percent of respondents (including a sliver of Democrats and independents) say Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine were the first thing he has done that warrants impeachment.
Let’s not brush past this too quickly. Taken together, this national poll found that 75% of Americans believe Trump did something wrong as part of his Ukraine scheme. There may be a sharp division on the question of the appropriate remedies and punishments, but there’s a qualitative – and in this case, quantitative – difference between that top-line takeaway and the public’s broader perceptions about Trump’s misdeeds.
In other words, it’s one thing to see that 48% of Americans oppose the idea of bringing Trump’s presidency to a premature end; it’s something else to believe 48% of Americans see Trump as innocent. The former is plausible; the latter is demonstrably false.
CNBC’s John Harwood dug a little deeper into the latest data and found that while 90% of Republican voters oppose Trump’s impeachment and removal from office over the Ukraine scandal, 45% of Republicans agree that he did something wrong.
That’s not just a striking figure in its own right, it also puts nearly half of GOP voters on the opposite side from their own president. When a reporter asked Trump this week whether he’s prepared to take “any responsibility” for his impeachment, he replied. “I don’t take any – zero, to put it mildly.”
Trump added on Twitter the next morning, “I DID NOTHING WRONG!”
The percentage of Americans who find this persuasive is quite small.