Calls for the impeachment of President Donald Trump have been coming from some Democrats almost since the first weeks of his time in the White House.
With the 2018 midterm elections on the horizon, you can bet every Democrat candidate will be using everything the president has done and said against him in their election campaigns. That rhetoric will likely include promises of being on board with any efforts to impeach Trump.
Sounds like a logical strategy for a Democrat to use against a Trump-supporting Republican in an election that will likely be a referendum on the president’s first 22 months in office.
Logical, yes. But perhaps not successful.
A new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll of likely voters shows the majority of respondents say they would definitely vote against a congressional candidate who runs on a platform that pledges to impeach Trump.
The poll found 47 percent of likely voters said they would oppose such a candidate, while 42 percent said they would favor such a candidate. The remaining 10 percent said they were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of roughly 4 percent.
The poll of 1,011 likely voters was conducted April 10-13, although the poll methodology does not indicate if any of the responses were collected after the president announced airstrikes against Syrian targets in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack.
Even among Democrats, there is some hesitancy to use impeachment as a reason for supporting a candidate, with 30 percent saying they would either definitely vote against a candidate who favors impeachment (18 percent of respondents) or are unsure if it would impact their vote (12 percent).
“If the question of impeachment dominates the news this fall, like so many other voter concerns, it breaks along partisan lines,” Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said of the results in a statement. “But, because nearly one-third of Democrats are not eager to open up this debate, it is one potential campaign issue that advantages the GOP.”
“The threat of impeachment provides Republicans their best point of attack looking toward the midterm elections, and I think we’re going to hear a lot more about it from their arsenal as they try to isolate the Robert Mueller investigation and delegitimize it,” Miringoff later told NPR. “If there’s a silver lining for Republicans in this data, it’s the impeachment question.”
Voters’ attitudes on whether impeachment is a campaign issue also depends upon their age — 57 percent of voters under 30 support impeachment, but 55 percent of those 60 and older oppose it.
Campaigning on the pledge of impeaching Trump may work just fine in heavily Democratic areas, but it could backfire in swing states and districts. Jonathan Martin of The New York Times wrote last week that Democrat strategists believe calls for impeachment could actually result in more turnout of pro-Trump supporters.
“What began last year as blaring political hyperbole on the right — the stuff of bold-lettered direct mail fund-raising pitches from little-known groups warning of a looming American ‘coup’ — is now steadily drifting into the main currents of the 2018 message for Republicans.
“The appeals have become a surefire way for candidates to raise small contributions from grass-roots conservatives who are devoted to Mr. Trump, veteran Republican fund-raisers say. But party strategists also believe that floating the possibility of impeachment can also act as a sort of scared-straight motivational tool for turnout.”
The same poll found Trump’s job approval rating is at 38 percent overall, down slightly from the 40 percent approval he received in late March. Nearly twice as many (40 percent) say they strongly disapprove of how the president is doing his job compared to those who say they strongly approve (22 percent).
Minigoff said the poll reflects the appeal Trump has maintained among his base.
“What is remarkable about Donald Trump’s tenure as president is that in the 18 polls we have conducted since he assumed office, his approval rating has ranged from a low of 35 percent to a high of 42 percent,” Miringoff said. “Trump has neither chased away his base nor has he reached out to new supporters.”
Democrats may have some success using Trump’s policies against him in November’s elections, but this poll suggests calls for his impeachment may be a recipe for defeat.
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