A Marist/PBS/NPR (“Marist”) Poll released on January 15, recording responses during the period, January 7 – 12, 2020, found that participants answering the question, “Based on what you know at this point, do you support or oppose the U.S. Senate removing President Trump from office?”, were evenly divided – 47% supporting removal, 47% opposed, and a mere 6% undecided. Not surprisingly, those that supported or opposed Mr. Trump’s removal were heavily skewed along party affiliation. Self-described independents were almost evenly divided, with 45% of this group supporting removal, and 47% opposed. Some have opined that these numbers are an indication that the President currently enjoys 2020 electoral strength among our people roughly equivalent to the percentage that oppose him.
I’m not so sure. I seriously question whether Mr. Trump can rely on the electoral support of all of those that oppose having him removed from office by an impeachment conviction. My inclination is partly driven by the anecdotal, partly from looking closely at the Marist poll.
I would submit that there is a segment of the electorate that strongly disagrees with Mr. Trump’s conduct of the presidency, but believes that he should be removed at the ballot box rather than through what has apparently degenerated into a partisan process. TLOML and I know two discerning Wisconsin citizens – who don’t know each other – who each voted against former WI Gov. Scott Walker in 2010, 2014, and 2018, but voted for him in the 2012 recall because they felt that Mr. Walker’s 2010 election had duly authorized him to effect his policies.
More recently, another Wisconsin resident, who has indicated that she will vote for any Democrat against Mr. Trump, told me that she strongly opposes the President’s removal via impeachment because she thinks that it would cause even greater acrimony among our people at a time that she believes we need healing and reconciliation. She was also concerned that if Vice President Mike Pence succeeded to the presidency, he might be tougher for a Democrat to beat than Mr. Trump.
This attitude, if held by a notable percentage of those opposing Mr. Trump’s impeachment-related removal, don’t bode well for the President’s electoral fortunes.
Finally, there are the detailed results of the Marist poll itself, a link to which is provided below. Seemingly of most interest in determining the correlation (or lack thereof) between the electorate’s attitude about the President’s impeachment-related removal and his 2020 electoral support are the respondents that identify as Independents, the segment presumably including most of our people who are not already irrevocably committed or opposed to the President, and those from the Midwest, home to three states that may hold the pivotal 2020 Electoral College votes. Both segments register significant contrasts in their attitudes toward Mr. Trump’s removal by impeachment and their assessment of his performance in office.
When asked whether the Senate should remove the President via impeachment, Independents were narrowly opposed to removal, 45% supporting to 47% opposed. At the same time, when asked whether they approved or disapproved of Mr. Trump’s performance in office, their sentiment flipped markedly – only 39% of Independents approved, while 55% disapproved – a fairly stunning 16% differential. Furthermore, only 24% of the approvers “strongly approved” of the President’s performance, while 41% of the disapprovers “strongly disapproved” – a 17-point enthusiasm differential. I suspect that Republicans find these sobering electoral numbers.
The responses Marist gathered from the arguably crucial Midwest segment of our electorate yields a similar dichotomy, although not as pronounced as among Independents. Midwesterners opposed the President’s removal by impeachment by 5 points, 44% supporting to 49% opposed. At the same time, when asked whether they approved or disapproved of Mr. Trump’s performance in office, Midwesterners disapproved by an 8 points margin, 44% approving, 52% disapproving. The enthusiasm gap also appears meaningful among Midwesterners: while 31% of the approvers “strongly approved” of the President’s performance, 41% of the disapprovers “strongly disapproved.”
It would seem that the decisive Election Day margin could come from those in key constituencies that currently oppose the President’s ouster via impeachment but disapprove of his handling of the presidency. While the Democrats’ eventual nominee will undoubtedly be the primary factor influencing the voters in this persuadable segment, perhaps the Democrats’ most important strategy in the upcoming Senate trial is to avoid an overtly-partisan presentation that will alienate them.