Two-thirds of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say the U.S. Senate should call new witnesses at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, and the public is divided on his removal from office – even as Trump’s approval rating has rallied to match his career high.
Forty-four percent now approve of Trump’s performance in office; 51% disapprove, maintaining his position as the first president in modern history never to achieve majority approval. That said, bolstered by the economy, his approval is up 6% since late October, with disapproval down 7 points to a new low.
Trump, moreover, reaches majority approval on another measure – 56%, a career high, for his handling of the economy, up 10 points from early September. Those who approve of his work on the economy are far more apt than others also to approve of his job performance overall.
Views on Trump’s handling of his impeachment, by comparison, are far weaker, at 39% – unchanged in the past month and a wide 17 points lower than his rating on the economy.
Divisions on impeachment remain sharp in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. The public narrowly approves of the House vote to impeach Trump, 52-45%, while splitting, 47-49%, on whether the Senate should or should not remove him from office. Partisanship prevails; 83% of Democrats favor Trump’s removal, while 88% of Republicans oppose it. Among independents, 42% back removing Trump, with 51% opposed.
Previous ABC/Post polls asked whether Congress should “impeach Trump and remove him from office”; the last result, in mid-December, was 49-46%. This poll tested the two actions separately, with, as noted, a slight difference: 52% approve of his impeachment while 47% support his removal. Among the gaps, Democrats, blacks and college graduates are 9 or 10 points more apt to support Trump’s impeachment than his removal.
Views are far more polarized than they were during Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial 21 years ago. In ABC/Post polling at the time, 59% disapproved of the House vote to impeach Clinton, and 66% opposed his removal from office.
With interviews conducted during the start of proceedings, 56% of Americans say they expect Trump to receive a fair trial in the Senate. While a majority, that’s down from 62% in pre-trial sentiment.
Changes among groups are telling: compared with views in mid-December, there’s been a 16-point drop among Democrats and a 10-point drop among independents in confidence that the Senate trial will be fair, partly countered by an 11-point increase among Republicans.
Ultimate views of the trial may hinge on developments ahead: As noted, 66% say the Senate should call new witnesses to testify. That includes 45% of Republicans, rising to 65% of independents and 87% of Democrats.
Similarly, nearly half of those who oppose Trump’s removal from office nonetheless want to hear from new witnesses – 47% – as do 85% of those who say he should be removed.
With the trial underway, the political fallout of Trump’s impeachment is yet to be seen. But if it ends with him impeached but not removed – as is likely, given the balance of power in the Senate – 33% of Americans say they’d view that as a victory for Trump, vs. 10% who’d see it as a victory for the Democrats. Most, 51%, would call it a draw.
Trump’s 44% overall job approval rating matches his high set last July; it had dipped to 38% in early September and late October alike. He’s averaged 39% approval in 16 ABC/Post measurements across his presidency, the lowest for any president at this point in modern polling, dating to the Truman administration 75 years ago.
Trump’s largest gains in approval since late October, 12 or 13 points, have come in a range of disparate groups, including men, moderates, Republicans, middle-income Americans, rural residents and 18-to 29-year-olds.
He’s at a record high in approval among men, 57%, compared with 33% approval among women – the widest gender gap to date, 24 points. The gap between non-college white men and college-educated white women also is at a new high, 38 points – 75 vs. 37%.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 20-23, 2020, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,004 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 27-24-39%, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey’s methodology here.