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NBC/WSJ poll: Public remains split on Trump's impeachment and ouster from office

About half of all voters also say they are certain to vote against the president next November.
Image: President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Albuquerque, N.M., on Sept. 16, 2019.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Sept. 16, 2019.Evan Vucci / AP file

WASHINGTON — Just hours before the U.S. House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that the American public remains deadlocked — reliably along party lines — over whether he should be impeached and removed from office.

While that split suggests that Trump will likely survive a Senate trial after the impeachment in the House — a conviction requires a two-thirds vote and thus a sizable number of Republican senators — the survey also finds that about half of all voters say they are certain to vote against the president next November.

And Trump's job approval rating is stuck in the low or mid-40s, where it's been in the NBC/WSJ poll for most of the last two years.

"Views on Donald Trump's impeachment remain locked in place, with most Americans having made up their mind both on Trump and the impeachment investigation a long time ago," said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted the survey with the Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

McInturff added: "It's remarkable in the era of Trump that even a story of this magnitude is unable to shift the fulcrum of American politics."

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Dec. 14-17, right before the House voted to impeach Trump for abusing his power in asking Ukraine's president to investigate Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and his son, and also for obstructing Congress in its impeachment inquiry.

Forty-eight percent of Americans believe that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while an equal 48 percent say they disagree.

Those numbers are essentially unchanged from late October, when 49 percent said the president should be impeached and removed and 46 percent said they were opposed.

By party, the current poll shows 83 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of independents supporting the president's impeachment and removal.

But among Republican respondents, 90 percent oppose his impeachment and ouster.

The survey also finds more than half of the country — 53 percent — saying they approve of the impeachment inquiry, compared to 45 percent who disapprove.

Again, those numbers are nearly identical to where they were in the late October NBC/WSJ poll, and they once again break along party lines.

Asked to explain their feelings over whether to impeach and remove Trump from office, 25 percent of all respondents (including 55 percent of Republicans) say the president has not done anything wrong.

An additional 22 percent (including 35 percent of Republicans) say that he may have done something wrong but that it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment.

Forty-four percent of Americans (including 79 percent of Democrats) believe his actions before the Ukraine controversy had already been grounds for impeachment.

And 8 percent of respondents (including a sliver of Democrats and independents) say Trump's actions regarding Ukraine were the first thing he has done that warrants impeachment.

Asked how impeachment might affect their vote for Congress, 30 percent of all Americans say they are more likely to vote for a member who supported impeaching and removing Trump, 33 percent say they are less likely to vote for that person, and 34 percent say it makes no difference either way.

Similarly, 23 percent say they are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who opposed impeaching and removing Trump, 37 percent say they are less likely to vote for that person, and 38 percent say it makes no difference.

"What is clear is that many Americans say an impeachment vote won't make a difference to them either way," said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster. "But Americans would be less likely to vote for a member of Congress who opposed impeachment and removal than someone who supported it."

McInturff, the Republican pollster, put it this way: "I'm far from persuaded that this impeachment vote will have consequences a year from now."

Trump's vulnerabilities heading into 2020

Looking ahead to next year's general election, a plurality of registered voters — 48 percent — say they are certain to vote against Trump, while 34 percent say they are certain to vote for him.

Eighteen percent of voters say their choice will depend upon whom Democrats nominate.

Those numbers, which are essentially unchanged from October, are worse for Trump than what the December 2011 NBC/WSJ poll showed for Barack Obama and his re-election prospects heading into the 2012 presidential contest.

In that poll, 34 percent of voters said they were certain to back Obama's re-election, 37 percent said they were certain to oppose him, and 27 percent said it depended on the Republican nominee.

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The new NBC/WSJ survey also shows that 50 percent of voters say they are "very uncomfortable" with Trump when it comes to the 2020 election.

That's compared with 28 percent who say they are "enthusiastic" about the president, as well as 12 percent who are "comfortable" with him.

And the poll finds Democrats enjoying a 7-point lead over Republicans in congressional preference, with 49 percent of voters preferring a Democratic-controlled Congress after next year's elections, compared to 42 percent who want Republicans in charge.

That 7-point edge for Democrats — which is within the margin of error for registered voters — is identical to their advantage in October's NBC/WSJ poll, as well as right before the 2018 midterms, when they won control of the House.

Trump's job rating: 44 percent

Finally, 44 percent of all respondents in the poll say they approve of Trump's job performance, including 33 percent who strongly approve.

But that's compared with 54 percent who disapprove, including 44 percent who do so strongly.

Inside the numbers, Trump performs best among Republicans (89 percent approve), whites without a college degree (58 percent), men (55 percent), rural residents (54 percent), those ages 50 to 64 (53 percent) and all whites (52 percent).

And he performs the worst among independents (37 percent), women (34 percent), Latinos (34 percent), those who are ages 18 to 34 (31 percent), African Americans (15 percent) and Democrats (8 percent).

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Dec. 14-17 of 900 adults — more than half of whom were reached by cellphone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.

Among the 733 registered voters the poll surveyed, the margin of error is plus-minus 3.6 percentage points.