Poll: GOP voters acknowledge, dismiss Trump's law-breaking

For many GOP voters, Trump's violations of the law aren't a deal-breaker. Their approval of Trump is detached from their assumptions about his illegalities.
Donald Trump
Audience members cheer as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autographs at a campaign event Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, in Atlanta.David Goldman / AP
Get the Msnbc newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE
By Steve Benen

As his Senate impeachment trial continues, Donald Trump would probably like to have the kind of broad public support Bill Clinton had during his impeachment trial, but he clearly does not.

CNN's poll found most Americans want to see Trump removed from office. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll found a plurality reaching the same conclusion, echoing the latest findings from Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

And then there's the latest report from the Pew Research Center.

As the Senate impeachment trial gets underway, slightly more Americans say that Donald Trump should be removed from office than say he should stay in office, with these views starkly divided along partisan lines.

Roughly half of U.S. adults (51%) say the outcome of the Senate trial should be Trump's removal from office, while 46% say the result should lead to Trump remaining in office.

Making matters slightly worse for the president, the same report found that 63% of Americans believe the Republican either has definitely or probably done illegal things, while 70% believe Trump has definitely or probably done unethical things. All of which suggests the public does not hold their president in the highest regard.

That said, there was one easy-to-miss gem in the Pew Research Center's findings:

Among the two-thirds of Republicans who say Trump has definitely or probably not done things that are illegal, nearly all (97%) say that he should remain in office following the Senate trial. While a majority of the 32% of Republicans who say Trump has likely done illegal things either during the campaign or while in office also say he should remain in office (59%), about four-in-ten (38%) say the president should be removed from office.

Or as the Washington Post's Greg Sargent put it, "A solid majority of Republicans who say Trump has probably done illegal things say he should remain in office."

And that's a tough hurdle to clear. As the impeachment proceedings continue, and House managers make meticulous presentations detailing the president's abuses, corruption, and illegalities, there's a large group of Republican voters who are willing to concede that Trump appears to be a criminal, but they nevertheless want him in office.

For these GOP voters, the president's violations of the law simply aren't a deal-breaker. Their approval of Trump is detached from their assumptions about Trump's illegalities.

Aaron Blake added, "It's a notable commentary on the moment we find ourselves in today. It's one thing for views of the Ukraine scandal to have hardened; it's another thing for a sizable chunk who think Trump has done illegal things to shrug their shoulders, oppose his removal and even approve of him as president. It suggests that there is a very large portion of Trump's base that simply can't be peeled away, even if he was proved to have committed a crime. It seems unlikely they'll then be swayed by an 'abuse of power' or 'obstruction of Congress' -- the two impeachment articles Democrats have offered -- almost no matter the evidence."

To understand why so many congressional Republicans have embraced Trump with such irrational and unshakable vigor, look no further than the Pew results.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog