07:43 - Source: CNN
This is how a President gets impeached
CNN —  

During the course of President Donald Trump’s administration, a minority of Americans have been for impeaching him. Just this past May, CNN found that 41% of Americans wanted to impeach and remove the President from office.

But as House Democrats launch a formal impeachment inquiry into the President, that percentage could easily move upward, given that many Democrats were not for impeachment previously may follow the lead of Democrats in Congress.

A clear majority, 72%, of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents were for impeaching and removing him in our May poll, but 21% were against it. That 21% is considerably higher than Trump’s 8% approval rating among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Meanwhile, the 72% in favor of impeaching and removing Trump was quite lower than the 89% who disapproved of his job in office.

This 72% is also small considering how many Democrats wanted to investigate Trump. In the poll, 88% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said that congressional Democrats were investigating Trump the right amount or too little. This 88% is nearly equal to the 89% who disapproved of Trump.

In other words, there was this chunk of Democrats who disapproved of Trump and wanted him investigated, but they weren’t yet willing to call for impeachment.

There is a decent chance that the impeachment percentage will begin to converge on the disapproval percentage. The reason I say this is two-fold, and they both have to do with congressional Democrats being likely to support some type of impeachment action.

Over the past few days, we’ve seen a number of Democrats call for an impeachment inquiry if the reports of the Ukrainian whistleblower are corroborated. This whistleblower filed a mysterious complaint, which includes allegations about President Donald Trump’s conduct in a conversation about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden with Ukraine’s president. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

By the time House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry on Tuesday evening, more than 160 House members were on board with impeachment, considerably more than the 95 Democrats who were against tabling Rep. Al Green’s motion to impeach earlier this year.

It seems unlikely that Democrat representatives would make an impeachment inquiry if Democrats in the electorate aren’t moving, too. Democratic representatives are merely a subset of Democrats in America. We saw how Democrats became a lot more supportive of impeachment during the investigations of Richard Nixon in the 1970s, as members of their party did in Congress.

But it’s more than that: Democrats in the electorate can have their opinions shaped by the leaders in Washington. We’ve seen, for instance, how Republicans’ view of Russia have become more favorable with Trump in the White House. On an issue like impeachment, where opinions aren’t set in stone, it’s quite likely that things can shift rather rapidly.

Indeed, one of the most important developments is who has started calling for an impeachment inquiry in recent days. Unlike most other Democrats who had done so previously, many of these Democrats are more conservative than the average Democrat in Congress. The writers of a Washington Post op-ed are all more moderate than the average Democrat, according to analysis of their roll call votes. Just 20% of those who voted earlier this year against tabling Green’s motion to impeach were more moderate than the average House Democrat.

Not surprisingly, moderate Democrats in the electorate were far less likely to back impeaching and removing the president in May. In our poll, 63% of moderate and conservative Democrats were in favor of it. That was considerably less than 82% of liberal Democrats. Put another way, support for impeachment could rise significantly just by moderate and conservative Democrats signing on to it.

Indeed, the fact that impeachment was not a universal winner with Democrats previously means that the overall percentage in favor of it could go up significantly just by Democrats jumping aboard. Even if no more Republicans or independents support impeachment now than did previously, Democrats supporting it at the same level they disapprove of Trump will drive the overall percentage in favor to grow rapidly.

For instance, if the same percentage of Democrats favoring impeachment matches the percentage disapproving of Trump and all other groups stay stable on impeachment, about 49% of Americans will support impeachment. That’s up 8 points from late May. Meanwhile, those against impeachment would drop to 48% in this hypothetical scenario.

That is, impeachment will not be something that Trump can count on for electoral support.

Of course, we’ll have to see if the polling actually does move and how. But let there be no mistake: there is plenty of room for it to grow.