The polling on impeachment

Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics offers five observations about the politics of impeaching President Trump. The entire piece is worth reading, especially Trende’s comments about the early polling on impeachment.

William Galston, a veteran center-left operative, also considers the polls. He sees them as counseling against impeachment.

However, his Wall Street Journal column includes this finding from a Quinnipiac survey:

Fifty-two percent of voters, including 54% of independents, believe that asking a foreign leader for help defeating an opponent in the forthcoming election is enough to warrant removing the president.

Thus, says Galston, if Mr. Trump’s accusers can make a convincing case that this is what happened, they will probably gain ground among independent voters. Change the word “defeating” to “undermining” — a small alteration — and the Democrats can make a decent case that this is what Trump asked for from Ukraine’s leader.

Note that the question here wasn’t about a quid pro quo; it was about asking for help in defeating a political opponent. Even if the president simply asked for this as a favor, a majority of voters see this as grounds for impeachment, at least according to the Quinnipiac survey.

I suspect the Democrats’ own polling yielded a similar result. This might well have been what convinced Nancy Pelosi to give the green light for an “impeachment inquiry.” It signaled that the Democrats can make substantial headway with a simple narrative that doesn’t rely on the existence of a quid pro quo (though the Dems will certainly press hard to find evidence of one).

Public sentiment might shift as the impeachment process drags on. A snap poll by Dick Morris convinced President Clinton that the public wouldn’t mind much that he had sex with an intern, but wouldn’t countenance him lying about it in testimony.

In the end, the public didn’t mind much that Clinton lied about having sex. Clinton came out of the impeachment process as popular as ever.

Here, evidence that the Bidens engaged in significant wrongdoing might cast Trump’s request for foreign help in a different light. Still, the Quinnipiac poll should worry the White House, not about Trump being removed from office by the Senate, but about Trump’s standing with the public this time next year.