A majority of Americans believe that President Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival is a serious problem that merits an impeachment inquiry, but the new scandal doesn’t shock them, according to to two new polls released Sunday. An ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted September 27-28 found that 64 percent of Americans believe Trump’s call with Ukraine — which alarmed an intelligence-community whistle-blower enough that they filed a formal complaint — is either a very serious or somewhat serious problem. A CBS News/YouGov poll conducted September 26-27, meanwhile, found that 72 percent of Americans thought the call was either illegal (41 percent) or improper but legal (31 percent).
55 percent said they agreed that the act merits an impeachment inquiry. There was less resolve for impeachment itself, however. Only 42 percent of respondents to the CBS/YouGov poll already believed that Trump deserves impeachment before the inquiry has been conducted, including 75 percent of Democrats, 16 percent of Republicans, and 35 percent of independents. Overall, 22 percent of Americans thought that it was too soon to weigh in on that question.
Americans also seem largely resigned to the fact that their president is the kind of leader who is willing do something like this. Only 17 percent of respondents to the ABC/Ipsos poll said that the news of Trump’s Ukraine call surprised them.
The partisan breakdown of the two polls’ numbers wasn’t shocking, either. It’s notable that 23 percent of Republicans in the CBS/YouGov poll said they at least supported the impeachment inquiry (along with 87 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents), but most of those Republicans didn’t think Trump had done anything improper or illegal. And 71 percent of Republicans indicated they believed the most prominent version of Trump’s explanation — that he was working on behalf of American interests against corruption and nothing else. (59 percent said the inquiry automatically made them want to defend the president.)
As Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore has explained, polling from the Nixon and Clinton scandals indicates that support for impeachment will probably build slowly if at all. The first polls, which focused on the scandal and impeachment last week, in addition to the two that came out Sunday, have shown some signs of an initial shift since House Democrats announced they would launch a formal impeachment inquiry.
An NPR/Marist poll conducted last week found that about 70 percent were following the news. Only 24 percent of those reached via the ABC/Ipsos poll released Sunday said they were paying close attention to the fast-developing scandal, while about 40 percent said they were following it somewhat closely.
One other thing that may be breaking through, however, is the noise and nonsense Trump has generated about his potential opponent in the 2020 election, Joe Biden. A majority of Americans reached in the CBS/YouGov poll said they had heard something about Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations regarding the former vice-president and his son. Only 28 percent said they did not think Trump’s claims deserved further investigation. 43 percent thought they did (including two thirds of Republicans and a quarter of Democrats), and 29 percent of respondents were withholding judgment for the time being.
That means the smear campaign Trump tried to pressure Ukraine to advance — which he and his allies have been repeating ad nauseam and which news publications have amplified with their coverage — may have wormed its way into the minds of more than two-thirds of Americans. How that ultimately impacts Biden’s campaign remains to be seen, and at the same time, the volume of news about the scandal itself has already begun to threaten the campaigns of the other Democratic candidates.