If you were trying to find bright spots for Donald Trump in the latest ABC/Washington Post poll, your best bet would be to take your mind-altering drug of choice and cross your fingers for a good trip. Fortunately, the rest of us can just stay on the straight and narrow and still drink in the goodness.
Let’s start with the basics: A plurality of 49% of Americans now support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, while 47% say he should not be impeached/removed. Most outlets are painting that as a “sharply divided” public, which is a fair read; but it’s also fair to note both how far the numbers have moved and the strength of emotion behind the impeachment/removal cohort. Back in July, the same poll found that just 37% of Americans supported opening an inquiry (forget about removal), with fully 59% opposed. Additionally, of the 49% who now support removal, 44% “strongly” support it. But of the 47% who oppose impeachment, only 37% strongly oppose it, with 10% saying they only “somewhat” oppose the idea of impeaching/removing Trump. That’s a gettable 10%, leaving Trump with just a little over a third of the country firmly against his removal from office.
Bottom line, that’s a very solid starting point for impeachment as the nation enters the public phase of the proceedings with full transcripts and public hearings soon to follow. GOP spin is going to get ever more difficult as the facts overwhelm an already weak hand of Republican talking points.
But frankly, it’s the other data points in the poll that even more strongly suggest rough waters ahead for Trump. Those numbers reveal that solid majorities of the public know that Trump did something wrong and isn’t handling either the presidency or impeachment well even if they don’t support his removal from office. For instance, 58% of Americans disapprove of the way Trump has responded to the inquiry, including 27% of Republicans, while only 34% approve of Trump’s response, including 63% of Republicans. In other words, less than two-thirds of Trump’s own party supports the way he is dealing with impeachment—that’s not a good number for a man who needs an iron grip on his party as he enters the most tumultuous phase of his presidency.
Additionally, 66% of the country says Trump hasn’t acted presidential since taking office (including 32% of Republicans); only 30% of Americans say Trump has acted in a “fitting and proper” way (including 65% of Republicans). Again, just two-thirds of Trump’s own party views him as presidential.
Similar numbers emerge when you ask people if Trump did something wrong in his dealings with Ukraine. Just 35% of the country says Trump did nothing wrong, and that includes only 67% of Republicans. That’s soft party support. Conversely, 55% of Americans say Trump’s actions were wrong, with 47% saying he did something “seriously wrong” while another 8% say it was wrong but not seriously wrong. That means the number of Americans who say Trump did something egregious is fully 12 points higher than the number who say he did nothing wrong at all. Let’s face it, when a president can only get about a third of the country to say he did nothing wrong at all, that’s a terrible opening bid.
Things only get worse when you add Rudy Giuliani into the mix: 60% of Americans say it was “inappropriate” for Trump to “involve his personal lawyer” in U.S. diplomacy with Ukraine.
Finally, Trump’s approval rating in the poll is exactly where it was in September at 38% (relatively low for the poll), but his disapproval rating has ticked up a couple points since September to 58%. Most of that uptick is coming from Republicans, 14% of whom disapproved of Trump’s job handling in September versus the 22% of Republicans who disapprove of him now.
Sure, it’s just one poll. But the picture that emerges from the 360 view of this survey is of a GOP base that’s mostly sticking with Trump on impeachment (82% against removal) even though many Republicans think he did something wrong and isn’t handling impeachment very well. In question after question about Trump’s handling of Ukraine and impeachment and the presidency since taking office, only about two-thirds of Republicans are solidly with Trump all the way, which translates to roughly one-third of the country.
Roughly a third of Republicans are kind of holding their nose on other issues while still opposing Trump’s removal from office. At the end of the day, it’s a lot harder to stay loyal to someone when in actuality you kind of think they suck.