Public attitudes on impeachment are not what Trump thinks they are

Updated

Late yesterday, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) announced her support for launching an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, and while she was hardly the first congressional Democrat to reach this conclusion, her decision raised a few eyebrows because of her electoral circumstances.

Porter, just six months into her first term, represents Orange County, California – traditionally a Republican bastion. If Porter, who won a close race against a Republican incumbent last year, believes she can (and must) endorse such a position, it’s very likely to get her party’s leaders’ attention.

On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, however, the president facing the prospect of impeachment believes he has the electorate in his corner. This was Trump’s most recent tweet on the subject:

“Almost 70% in new Poll say don’t impeach. So ridiculous to even be talking about this subject when all of the crimes were committed by the other side. They can’t win the election fairly!”

There’s quite a bit of nonsense packed into this tweet, including the bogus assertion that his unnamed detractors are guilty of unspecified “crimes.” It’s also more than a little ironic to see Donald Trump, of all people, talk about the importance of winning elections “fairly.”

But perhaps the most important word in his tweet was “almost” – because given the latest polling data on presidential impeachment, it’s a word doing a whole lot of work in Trump’s missive.

Take the latest Fox News poll, for example:

Views are mixed on impeachment: 43 percent of voters want Trump impeached and removed from office, 7 percent say he should be impeached, but not removed from office, and 48 percent oppose impeaching Trump.

Obviously, there’s a significant difference between 48% and “almost 70%,” but just as important is the size of the pro-impeachment contingent: Fox News found a combined 50% of Americans actually support impeachment, though there’s disagreement within that total about removing the president from office.

In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, opposition to impeachment is identical – 48% – while the majority is divided between those who support impeachment and those who support ongoing investigations.

This comes on the heels of other polls from earlier this month showing support for presidential impeachment inching higher.

To be sure, it’s best not to overstate matters. Even the most enthusiastic impeachment supporter can’t credibly argue that the idea is broadly popular with the public, and we’re a long way from anything resembling a national consensus.

But as we recently discussed, public opinion in this area matters. House Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have made public support for impeachment a prerequisite to beginning the process. The more Americans endorse the idea, the more likely it is to happen.