How responsive is public opinion?
Democrats and Republicans became more likely to support impeachment in October, but movement has ticked down.
It is a cold and rainy day here in Washington, DC, so naturally I felt it would be a good evening to stay inside and write about the ongoing process to impeach the president of the United States.
The past two weeks have featured doozies of congressional hearings. More than a few of my Democratic friends have reacted positively to them; the revelations have, after all, provided quite a bit of evidence—some new and some confirmatory—that is damning to the president and his defenders. They hope that people will hear them and join the #Resistance.
But among the public, it actually looks like support for impeaching President Trump (and removing from office) has decreased over the past two weeks. The share of voters who favor impeachment has fallen to 46% from a high of 49-50% a month ago, according to FiveThirtyEight’s averaging.
Polling from Civiqs (which is a lesser-known online firm that uses advanced statistical modeling to estimate opinion from hundreds of thousands of survey respondents among different demographic groups and geographic levels) has also shown a dip in support for impeachment over the past few weeks. It’s worth noting that they have support for impeachment net-positive in 25 states, which wouldn’t be enough to convict Trump of whatever charges the House approves, assuming all Senators vote the way their voters feel (which is not true in reality, but that’s exactly my point).
The natural conclusion to these data is that the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings haven’t impacted support in the way Democrats have hoped. But I’m not too sure about that.
I think it’s much too early to make this assumption. For one thing, information takes a while to be fully realized in the public. For another, voters will probably need even more time to process the information—and there is a meaningful difference between people tuning in to 5 minutes of the hearings and them understanding the consequences of the news, etc. I usually wait a week or two before I start assessing the impacts of certain events on public opinion.
At this point, I urge caution when assuming whether the hearings have moved public sentiment. After all, the depressing truth of a polarized public is that single events are unlikely to change peoples’ minds that much anyway.
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