It does not require a keen analytical mind to know that the chances of President Donald Trump being removed from office through impeachment were never more than extremely slim. Those Democrats for whom the trauma of the Trump presidency had not utterly destroyed the capacity for rational thought have always known this, even as they embarked upon their grand inquisition. Their intent, then, must have been to persuade the American voter that the president was not deserving of re-election in November. In this effort, they have failed, if recent polls are anything to go by.
A Rasmussen survey, conducted Jan. 23-26, sought the opinions of 1,000 likely voters. Only 27% of respondents thought Trump’s impeachment will hurt his chances of winning a second term, assuming that he is not convicted and removed; 31% believed the impeachment will have no impact on Trump’s electoral fortunes; another 31% said that what the Democrats have done will help him in November; and 11% of those polled indicated they were not sure.
Voters Remain Unconvinced
Short of Trump’s removal from office, the standard for success, in the eyes of Democrats, must be convincing a majority of voters that the president’s impeachment should be a major factor in deciding how they cast their ballots. As Liberty Nation’s Onar Åm pointed out: “[T]he real battle is about winning the hearts and minds of the public.” Åm argues that, due to an inept defense, the president could be losing this battle. Overwhelmingly, though – according to Rasmussen – this is not necessarily translating into an election-decider, a fact that does not bode well for the president’s political opponents.
Breaking down the results by party affiliation does not appear to give Democrats anything more to cheer: Only 16% of Republican voters thought Trump’s re-election chances will be damaged by his impeachment. More disappointing, though, for those who want to be rid of the president: just 40% of Democrat voters agreed and only 25% of unaffiliated voters felt the same way.
It is not unreasonable to suggest that these results are hardly surprising: The political research site FiveThirtyEight has compiled a running aggregate of polls that ask voters their opinions on whether Trump should be removed from office. From October 2019 to January 2020, the numbers have been fairly steady, indicating either that most people are not paying much attention to the impeachment proceedings or that none of the testimonies or other details publicly released have made a significant difference in the opinions of those who are following.
The most recent results in this average of polls show that 83.1% of Democrat voters supported Trump’s removal – up from 79% in October but down from a high of 86.9% just about two weeks prior to the House vote on articles of impeachment. Among Republican voters, only 10.6% currently favor Trump’s ousting. In early October, that figure was 15%. Among Independents, 40% in October wanted the president removed and that number was up to 43.7% by the end of that month. It stands currently at 42.5%. The figure for all voters polled is 48.5% in favor of removal.
What does all this mean? It means that, regardless of political identity, voters have not been swayed significantly in either direction, neither by the impeachment investigation nor by opening arguments in the trial itself. Most minds on both sides are made up – and have been since long before the impeachment – as to whether Trump should remain president for another four years. Regardless of anything else, approximately 80% of Democrats wanted Trump out and around 12% of Republicans concurred. In itself, Trump’s impeachment is not moving the needle significantly in either direction.
Alarming Disregard for Democratic Elections
The Rasmussen poll asked another question, though, one that produced an alarming response. On the floor of the Senate, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) – one of the House impeachment managers – recently said: “The president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.” Coming from any politician who pretends to hold sacred the institution of democratic elections, this is a truly alarming statement.
The poll asked voters whether they agreed with Schiff (and, it should be noted for context, that the question did not identify Schiff as the speaker). A startling 38% of respondents agreed that Congress, rather than they themselves, should determine the president’s fate; 46% disagreed; and 17% were not sure. Perhaps, for Democrats, that is the one hopeful sign in this survey: More than half of those polled either found it acceptable that Congress would decide what choice they will have at the ballot box in November or had no opinion on the matter.
Be that as it may, the president’s enemies have obviously failed to persuade a majority of likely voters that the accusations made against him will impact the result of the 2020 presidential election. Even among those who vote Democrat, almost 20% appeared to oppose Trump’s removal from office and close to 60% of Independents felt the same way. Democrats claim to believe that the will of the majority should prevail. Unless public opinion shifts drastically over the coming days, Trump’s acquittal will be in line with that belief – but no one should hold his or her breath, waiting for Democrats to celebrate a victory for democracy.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.