For now, he’s losing the battle for public opinion.
The news can feel exhausting and demoralizing right now. Each day seems to bring a new assault on the notion of democratic governance. Yesterday brought two: President Trump’s public call for China to intervene in an American election; and new details about the pressure the Trump administration was putting on Ukraine to interfere.
Nevertheless, I want to inject a little optimism into your news diet this morning:
Things are not going well for Trump. He is facing a political crisis unlike any of his presidency. And his continual escalation of the situation is a sign of weakness not strength.
Why? As I’ve written before, impeachment is an inherently political process. It has always been a battle for public opinion, above all. That’s why Richard Nixon was forced out of his office and why Bill Clinton finished his term. For now, Trump is losing the battle.
Consider a chart that FiveThirtyEight has published, tracking national opinion about impeachment through an average of polls. Neither the release of Robert Mueller’s report this spring nor Mueller’s testimony before Congress this summer caused any noticeable change in the percentage of people supporting impeachment.
But the Ukraine scandal has had a substantial effect. The share of people favoring impeachment has risen. A new poll came out yesterday, from USA Today, showing that “Americans by a 45%-38% plurality now support” impeachment and by a similar margin support the Senate convicting and removing Trump.
Recent polls on Trump’s approval rating — which are probably more meaningful than impeachment polls — have also been bad for him. As Nate Silver tweeted, “Trump approval down from ~43% to ~41% since the Ukraine story broke.” (Pay no attention to stories that ignore poll averages and cherry-pick outlier polls.)A 41 percent approval rating is obviously not good. Morning Consult released a state-by-state poll yesterday showing Trump with net negative approval in Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, all of which he won in 2016. He is hovering around the break-even point in Florida and Georgia.
This story has a long way to go, and much of it will depend on how well Democrats conduct their impeachment inquiry. Currently, though, things are going quite poorly for Donald Trump.