Jan 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Impeachment by the numbers

Photo illustration of Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden, with numbers floating above their heads

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Spencer Platt/Getty Images and Win McNamee/Getty Images

Take a step back, and little has changed in the political landscape four months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the inquiry against President Trump.

By the numbers: Trump's national approval numbers, public support for his removal and Joe Biden's place as the Democratic primary front-runner have held steady. Meanwhile, the GOP and Trump campaign are raising money off of impeachment.

What hasn't changed: The American public is still split over whether Trump should be removed, just as they were split over the launch of an impeachment inquiry in September.

  • Support for removing Trump has inched up, but not dramatically, according to CNN-SSRS polling. In September, 47% of Americans wanted Trump to be impeached and removed from office, with 45% opposed.
  • This week, 51% said he should be convicted and removed, with 45% opposed.

Trump's approval numbers still hover around 42% — one of the lowest, but most consistent approval rating streaks of any recent president, according to FiveThirtyEight data.

  • By contrast, Bill Clinton's approval ratings shot up from the 60% range in early 1998 to 73% during his impeachment in December 1998, according to Gallup.

Biden remains the 2020 Democratic candidate to beat in national polls, despite early concern that Trump's unsubstantiated allegations involving Biden's son and Ukraine would prove damaging.

  • Beyond one spike in national interest when the House voted to impeach Trump, the general public has had relatively little interest in searching online for updates or news about impeachment, according to Google Trends.

What has changed: Most shifts since the impeachment process began seem to be in Trump's favor. Trump’s net approval numbers actually improved in 31 states between September and December, according to Morning Consult data.

  • They improved by at least 5 points in Iowa, Utah, Maine, Montana and New Mexico.
  • But his net approval declined in some key states as well, including Michigan and Texas.

The vast majority of Trump's TV ads have involved impeachment. Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee reportedly raised more than $150 million in just the last three months of 2019.

  • The RNC says it has attracted more than 600,000 new donors since September. It also recruited more than 100,000 new volunteers through its anti-impeachment "Stop the Madness" campaign website.

But some Democrats have seen an impact too. The Biden campaign says its average digital revenue per day more than doubled during impeachment compared to the weeks before.

  • It also saw a fundraising spike after the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was released, a campaign official told Axios. “It was a moment where people realized what’s a stake in this election,” the official said.
  • The Democratic National Committee has already raised as much in January from major donor fundraising as it had by May in 2016 and April in 2008, according to a DNC official.
  • Pete Buttigieg's national press secretary, Chris Meagher, said the campaign "didn't think it was appropriate to fundraise off a national crisis." Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren's campaigns didn't respond to requests for comment.
“Impeachment continues to backfire on Democrats and fire up voters toward President Trump and the Republican movement."
— RNC spokesperson Mandi Merritt in a statement to Axios

In the short term, impeachment has dominated the news for four months and seems to have gotten under Trump’s skin. Trump has tweeted or retweeted at least 367 times about impeachment since Sept. 24 — an average of three impeachment tweets per day.

The bottom line: The public — and the parties — are so dug in on Trump that even impeachment hasn't been a tipping point.

Go deeper: GOP monetizes impeachment as Dems try to change the subject

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