President Donald Trump claims he has found some good news in the polls on the question of impeaching him.
“Only 25 percent want the President Impeached, which is pretty low considering the volume of Fake News coverage, but pretty high considering the fact that I did NOTHING wrong,” Trump said in a Wednesday tweet.
Let’s ignore the “Fake News coverage” and “NOTHING wrong” and focus on his claim about how much of the public supports impeachment.
Facts First: Public polls from the last week put support for impeachment much higher than 25% — regularly above 40% and as high as 55%.
Support for impeachment has increased substantially since the September eruption of the scandal over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
A Fox News poll conducted October 6-8 found 51% of registered voters supported impeaching Trump and removing him from office, another 4% supported impeachment but not removal, and 40% opposed both. (Trump criticized the poll on Twitter on Thursday: “From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll. Whoever their Pollster is, they suck.”)
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted October 4-7 found 45% support among registered voters for impeachment and removal, 49% opposition.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted October 7-8 found 45% support for impeachment, 39% opposition.
So we don’t know if Trump was referring to any actual poll. If he was, there are two prime candidates — but he would be mischaracterizing their results.
The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll
The NBC/WSJ poll, conducted from October 4-6, asked participants a standard question on impeachment: “Based upon what you know today,” should Congress impeach and remove Trump or not impeach and remove him?
Forty-three percent said impeach and remove, 49% said do not impeach or remove, and 8% said they weren’t sure.
How could Trump conceivably get “only 25 percent want the President Impeached” from this 43% result?
Well, the poll included another question about impeachment. That other question asked participants whether they think there is enough evidence for Congress to impeach Trump and remove him “now,” whether Congress should hold an impeachment inquiry “to determine if there is enough evidence to see if he should remain or be removed from office,” or whether there is not enough evidence even to hold the impeachment inquiry.
Twenty-four percent picked the first option in favor of impeachment and removal “now.” That’s pretty close to 25%.
Here’s the problem for Trump: an additional 31% picked the option of holding an impeachment inquiry to gather more evidence — as Democrats in Congress say they plan to do.
In other words, some of the 43% group who want Trump impeached decided, on this other question, to endorse the Democrats’ actual course of action rather than a hypothetical faster course.
The Washington Post-Schar School poll
This poll, conducted from October 1-6, found 58% support for Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and 49% support for impeachment and removal.
So where could Trump possibly have gotten “only 25 percent” here?
The poll also found that 25% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents supported the impeachment inquiry.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, of course, are not representative of the country, but Trump sometimes describes favorable-to-him subsets of the population as if they are the entire population.
False claims about other polling
Trump said Friday that his poll numbers had gone “through the roof” because of Democrats’ “phony witch hunt.” On Monday, he made the claim more specific.
“This is a scam. And the people are wise to it. And that’s why my polls went up, I think they said, 17 points in the last two or three days,” he said.
We have no idea who “they” might be, but there’s no public evidence for either claim.
The polls do not show evidence of a large anti-impeachment, pro-Trump backlash, let alone a giant spike of “17 points.” FiveThirtyEight’s poll average had Trump’s approval rating at 41.5% on Monday, basically unchanged from 41.6% three days prior.