Impeachment unpopular in NJ swing districts … before Ukraine news
Nearly two-thirds of registered voters in New Jersey congressional districts that have flipped to Democrats from Republicans in the last three years oppose removing President Donald Trump from office through impeachment, and a majority say starting an impeachment inquiry is a bad idea, according to results from the latest Monmouth University Poll.
There’s a big asterisk, however: The poll was done from Sept. 12 to 16, before the news about a whistleblower complaint involving a call Trump made to Ukraine’s president in which he pressed for the foreign government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
“Before this week’s events, when we took this poll, it looked like there was a potential for a risk to those Democrats who have flipped seats,” said poll director Patrick Murray.
“What we found there is that there was a Democratic base that wants to proceed with impeachment. But there’s an independent base who said, ‘We don’t like Donald Trump, but we don’t want you to get caught in this whole impeachment issue because it’s a distraction, it’s a side show. We want you to work on core issues of infrastructure, health care, those kinds of things,’” Murray said.
Murray said Democratic members of Congress from the flipped districts – the 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 11th districts, as well as the 5th District that switched in 2016 – have been “caught between these two parts of the base that they need in 2020.”
“Certainly this week changed things for those members. So now the question remains: Does it change it for those voters there?” Murray said.
Statewide, 37% of registered voters say Trump should be impeached and removed from office but 58% say he should not. In traditionally GOP districts, 30% support removal from office and 65% do not.
Opinions about starting an impeachment inquiry aren’t quite as pronounced, with 43% statewide (and 38% in traditionally GOP districts) saying that’s a good idea and 52% statewide (and 57% in old GOP districts) saying it’s a bad idea.
But Murray said the data shows an impeachment vote might cause “only a slight negative impact” in terms of 2020 voting, anyway. Even in traditionally GOP districts, 45% said a House member’s vote for impeachment wouldn’t affect their vote next year. Only 3% more people said it would make them less likely (27%) to vote for him or her than said it would make them more likely to (24%).
“But if the race was close, that could be the difference between victory and defeat. So that’s what they were worried about,” Murray said.
Murray said that during impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon 45 years ago, public opinion followed, didn’t lead, what was happening in current events and in the position of the Congress’ leadership. Public opinion didn’t move until Republicans in Congress got on board, he said.
“This all comes down to independent voters who are not fans of Donald Trump but are also not fans of the idea of an impeachment trial bogging down Washington. The question is now: Will they switch their opinion on having an impeachment inquiry?” Murray said.
“We’ll have to see,” he said. “But it’s clear that these members of Congress are not following public opinion. But they are hoping that they will lead public opinion down a new direction.”
Statewide, 37% of registered voters approve of the job Trump is doing, while 56% disapprove. The margins are, predictably, closer in districts that Republicans controlled before 2016, at 43% approve and 48% disapprove.
Even those in those traditionally GOP areas, 52% of voters said someone else should be elected president next year. Murray said “that’s a real flip in opinion on Trump,” as Hillary Clinton received 46% of the vote in those districts.
“There is an anti-Trump coalition building. And for (the new House Democrats), it’s, like, why don’t we continue to ride these coattails of anti-Trump sentiment in 2020? But the events of the past week seem to have changed that calculation,” Murray said.
The poll included 651 registered voters, and the results have a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.