Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll very narrowly support the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and agree that if the House of Representatives does impeach him that he should be removed from office. But the partisan differences are huge, and they reflect not just opinion on this particular constitutional conflict, but on what offenses are impeachable, and what behavior is acceptable for a commander in chief.
Majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree that perjury is an impeachable offense, but less than half of Republicans regard obstruction of justice or abuse of power that way. And there is little GOP support for considering other allegations that could become part of this impeachment controversy: contempt of Congress, lying to the public, or any specific action that would withhold foreign aid until a country agreed to investigate an opponent. Republicans describe all three of these instances as not things that should cause an elected official to be impeached and removed from office.
Independents, by varying margins, say all these things are impeachable offenses. The House articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton focused on perjury and obstruction of justice (an abuse of power article failed to pass the House). In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned before the full House could vote, but the Judiciary Committee approved three impeachment articles: obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress.
This poll was conducted before the White House announced Tuesday night it would not cooperate with the House inquiry. That action could make the party divides even wider. In the poll conducted from October 6-8, 45 percent of the public (and just 12% of Republicans) approve of the current impeachment inquiry; 42 percent do not. But if the House did impeach, 45 percent would favor removing the president from office, 39 percent would oppose it.
Last week, Trump publicly asked China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Americans took that request seriously, even though some Republicans suggested that he was joking. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree that Trump was not joking.
Nearly two-thirds of Republicans regard that direct appeal to China, made before television cameras and reporters, as an appropriate action. Democrats and Independents disagree.
The president remains extremely popular with Republicans: 88 percent approve of how he is doing his job. Just 77 percent of Democrats approve of how Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is conducting hers; close to the 82 percent approval rating she received from Democrats in January, just after she began her current Speakership).