On impeachment, polling points to some 'national consensus'

Is there "national consensus" on removing Trump from office? No. Is there one on the Senate including new witness testimony during the impeachment trial? Yes.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill.Charles Dharapak / AP Photo
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By Steve Benen

During his opening statement this afternoon, Ken Starr complained that there's "no national consensus" when it comes to Donald Trump's impeachment. If memory serves, Starr had no similar concerns during his impeachment effort in the late 1990s -- a sizable majority of Americans had no use for Starr's crusade -- but perhaps he's changed his mind about the importance of public attitudes.

Whatever the explanation, there's some truth to the assertion. A majority of Americans support Trump's impeachment, conviction, and removal from office -- a point bolstered by three major national polls released just over the last several days -- but it'd be a stretch to characterize a narrow national majority as a "consensus."

There is one area, however, in which a consensus emerges. Consider this tidbit from the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll:

Despite divisions over the preferred outcome, 66 percent of Americans overall say the Senate should call new witnesses to testify at the impeachment trial, a question that has been fiercely fought among senators. [...]

Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and over 6 in 10 independents support calling new witnesses, while Republicans are split about evenly, with 45 percent saying new witnesses should be called and 43 percent saying they should not.

There's more data along these lines. In the latest national Associated Press poll, 68% supported calls for new witnesses during the Senate proceedings. A CNN poll put the figure at 69%.

Sure, "consensus" is a subjective term, and there's no mathematical formula to determine the exact threshold. But I think it's probably fair to say that when two-thirds of the public consistently share the same opinion on a contentious point, there's a national consensus.

The question is whether Republicans are so eager to participate in a cover-up for Trump that they ignore this consensus. There's reason to believe this is a distinct possibility.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog