NBC/WSJ poll: 49 percent now back Trump's impeachment and removal

But the president's support among Republicans remains strong one year out from Election Day
President Donald Trump speaks to the media outside of the White House on Oct. 11, 2019.Zach Gibso / Bloomberg via Getty Images file
By Mark Murray

WASHINGTON — Exactly one year out from the 2020 general election, a majority of all Americans — or close to it — support impeaching President Donald Trump and removing him from office, disapprove of his job performance and back his top Democratic rivals in head-to-head matchups.

Those are the findings from the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which was conducted amid the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against the president, after Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, and after the military raid that killed the leader of ISIS.

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Despite those grim numbers for Trump, the poll also contains silver linings for the president, including more than 50 percent who approve of his handling of the economy and a GOP base that remains loyal to him, with nine-in-10 Republicans opposing his removal from office. That party support is a crucial factor given that an impeachment conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds vote.

“At this very early stage of the impeachment inquiry the data suggest a path for victory for Trump with the judges in the Senate,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff at Public Opinion Strategies.

“But there’s a much more challenging road ahead come next November with the judges at the ballot box,” Horwitt added.

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In the poll, 53 percent of Americans say they approve of the impeachment inquiry regarding Trump’s actions with Ukraine’s president, while 44 percent disapprove.

The results largely break along partisan lines, with 89 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents supporting the inquiry — versus just 9 percent of Republicans who agree.

Then asked if Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 49 percent answer yes, while 46 percent say no.

That’s a reversal from a month ago, when the survey found the numbers essentially flipped — 43 percent yes, 49 percent no.

The increase in those supporting removal from office comes mainly from Democrats and independents.

And once again, the partisan divide here is striking: 88 percent of Democrats now support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, compared with 90 percent of Republicans who oppose it.

Independents are split, with 43 percent supporting Trump’s removal and 46 percent opposing it.

The bad news for Trump heading into the 2020 election

A year away from the 2020 general election, the NBC/WSJ poll contains other ominous signs for the president.

Fifty-three percent of Americans disapprove of hisjob performance, including 45 percent who say they strongly disapprove.

That’s compared with 45 percent who approve, including 31 percent who do so strongly.

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These numbers are essentially unchanged from the last month and over the past year.

“These are the same exact numbers we’ve been seeing,” said McInturff, the GOP pollster.

By party, 91 percent of Republicans approve of his job, versus just 6 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of independents.

In addition, half of Americans — 50 percent — say they have no confidence that Trump has the right goals and policies to be president, compared with just 35 percent who say they are “extremely” or “quite” confident.

“What should trouble Donald Trump is both the size of the opposition to him and how locked in it is,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.

And the president trails the leading Democratic candidates by nearly 10 points in hypothetical general-election matchups.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump by nine point among registered voters, 50 percent to 41 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is ahead of him by eight points, 50 percent to 42 percent.

In a separate question, 46 percent of all registered voters say they are certain to vote against Trump in 2020, versus 34 percent who say they are certain to vote for him.

Seventeen percent — made up disproportionately of independents, soft Republicans and younger voters — say they might vote either way depending on the nominee.

On this same question in the Dec. 2011 NBC/WSJ poll, 34 percent said they were certain to vote for Barack Obama; 37 percent said they were certain to vote against him; and 27 percent said they could vote either way depending on the nominee.

The good news for Trump for 2020

Despite those challenging numbers for Trump, there are positive signs for him in the poll.

For starters, a majority of Americans — 52 percent — approve of his handling of the economy, which is higher than his overall job rating (45 percent) and his foreign-policy handling (41 percent).

Next, Republican voters are essentially tied with Democrats when it comes to expressing high interest in the upcoming election — which wasn’t the case at this stage in the 2018 midterms, when Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

And, by a 40 percent-to-9 percent margin, Americans say that the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes the United States safer rather than less safe.

By contrast, the public believes Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria makes the United States less safe by a 35 percent-to-10 percent margin.

Biden, Warren, Sanders lead Democratic horserace

Turning to the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden gets the support from 27 percent of Democratic primary voters in the new NBC/WSJ poll.

He’s followed by Elizabeth Warren at 23 percent and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at 19 percent.

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After that, it’s South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 6 percent, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., at 5 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at 4 percent and entrepreneur Andrew Yang at 3 percent.

No other Democratic presidential candidate gets more than 2 percent support in the national poll.

In September’s NBC/WSJ poll, Biden was at 31 percent, Warren at 25 percent and Sanders at 14 percent.

More than eight-in-10 Democratic primary voters say they’re satisfied with their presidential field, with 31 percent saying they’re “very” satisfied and another 54 percent saying they’re “fairly” satisfied.

And 37 percent of Democratic primary voters say they prefer a candidate who will build on former President Barack Obama’s legacy, versus 55 percent who want a candidate who will take a new and different approach.

Biden (at 34 percent support) and Warren (24 percent) lead among the Democratic voters who want to build on Obama’s legacy.

And among the Democrats who want to go in a different direction, it’s Sanders (at 27 percent), Warren (22 percent) and Biden (20 percent).

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Oct. 27-30 of 900 adults — including more than half who were reached by cellphone — and the overall margin of error in the poll is plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.

The poll also surveyed 720 registered voters (a margin of error of plus-minus 3.7 percentage points) and 414 Democratic primary voters (plus-minus 4.8 percentage points).

Mark Murray

Mark Murray is a senior political editor at NBC News.