The elephant in the room for the Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll released Wednesday is the question of impeachment. Democrats want it, but they don’t want to talk about it in districts held by Republicans; it could rile up the GOP base and backfire on the effort to take over the House of Representatives in the midterms. The Republicans don’t want to talk about it because, in more moderate districts, it makes the GOP candidates radioactive by virtue of their proximity to their unpopular Republican Party leader, Donald Trump.
So, today, we’re going to talk about it.
Nationally, we are a country divided over impeachment: 44 percent say that the House of Representatives should seriously consider impeaching Trump, while 47 percent oppose. The remaining 9 percent are undecided. Some of those 9 percent may not like or approve of the job Trump is doing, but they aren’t willing to pull the trigger on the question of impeachment just yet.
One wonders if the remaining reticence about impeachment is rooted in a general perception that the remedy is too extreme.
Not unexpectedly, there are demographics that easily break above 50 percent on the “yes” side of impeachment. Young voters ages 18-34 years (52 percent), those with household income of less than $20,000 per year (54 percent), Hispanic voters (58 percent), African-Americans (70 percent), and, of course, those identifying with the Democratic party (71 percent).
These groups are the driving force behind an anti-Trump thread in the national poll, which was fielded after a conviction in the Paul Manafort trial and a plea-bargain deal with Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer. Cohen’s guilty plea to campaign finance and financial charges leads many voters to believe that those legal developments raise serious questions about Trump’s own behavior (61 percent), while 27 percent say they don’t have much to do with Trump.
Voters across the country overwhelmingly (69 percent) feel that Russia made a serious effort to meddle in the 2016 election. They also say they have little or no trust (59 percent) in President Trump’s denial that there was collusion between his campaign and Russian intrusiveness. Perhaps that’s why voters (63 percent) say that Trump should voluntarily agree to be interviewed by special counsel Mueller.
All of this begs the question of timing, with the midterms just 10 weeks away. But the public appears patient at this point. Over half (55 percent) of voters say the special counsel should take all the time he needs, even if the inquiry continues into next year, while 40 percent say the Mueller should wrap up the investigation as quickly as possible, within weeks not months.
Yet the recent weeks haven’t been kind to Trump.
His unfavorable rating and job performance disapproval are now in the mid-to-high-50s as more and more independents defect. And speaking of independents, on the question of impeachment more are tipping to the yes side (47 percent yes, 40 percent no) with 13 percent undecided on this question. Among independents who approve of Trump, 13 percent support impeachment, while 75 percent do not. And among independents who disapprove of Trump, 67 percent support impeachment, while 25 percent do not. That latter 1 in 4 are saying they think Trump has done a bad job, but they’re not ready to see him impeached.
On the surface, one would think that there would be a correlation between those concerned about issues and those who dislike Trump and want impeachment, given that these are the most engaged voters in the congressional midterms.
Among those most concerned about immigration, 27 percent support impeachment but 66 percent do not. Among those most concerned about the economy/jobs, just 28 percent support impeachment while 63 percent oppose, and among those most concerned about taxes/tax reform, 30 percent support impeachment and 63 percent oppose. Even among those most concerned about health care, a strong issue for Democrats, 46 percent support and 47 percent oppose.
This takes us back to the elephant in the room – impeachment – as it relates to the issues relevant to the congressional midterm election and the timing of the Mueller investigation.
In the swing congressional districts, Democratic and Republican candidates are going to be harboring their true emotions and shielding their inner motivations to satisfy an electorate they hope to woo. One way or another the swords will come out from under their respective cloaks once the November election has been settled.
David Paleologos is director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.
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