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Trump starts the impeachment battle with a majority against him

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks to the media before departing the White House on Aug. 7, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks to the media before departing the White House on Aug. 7, 2019.Andrew Harnik / AP file

WASHINGTON — There’s a frequent number in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and it’s not a good one for President Trump — 53 percent.

Fifty-three percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s job.

Fifty-three percent hold a negative personal view of the president.

Fifty-three percent don’t believe the president has been honest and trustworthy when it comes to his actions regarding Ukraine.

And 53 percent is the average between the 51 percent who say the allegations against Trump are serious and should be fully investigated, and the combined 55 percent who want Trump either impeached/removed right now or who want an impeachment inquiry.

Oh, and if 53 percent sounds familiar, remember that 54 percent of the country voted for someone else in the 2016 presidential election

So two things can be true.

One, Americans have been pretty much locked in their partisan corners since November 2016.

“What’s powerful about this poll is what has not changed,” said Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster who co-conducts the NBC/WSJ survey.

And two, Trump starts this impeachment battle — and looks ahead to re-election next year — with 53 percent of the country already against him.

“This is one poll at the beginning,” said Peter Hart, the Democratic half of the NBC/WSJ poll. “And it’s a different starting point than either [Richard] Nixon or [Bill] Clinton had” during their own impeachments.

Indeed, Bill Clinton had a 68 percent job rating in the NBC/WSJ poll when the GOP-led House began its impeachment inquiry against him in October 1998.

And Richard Nixon’s was at 25 percent when the House started its impeachment inquiry against him in May 1974, per Gallup.

So Trump is smack-dab in the middle — at 43 percent approval.

Independents’ Day

Given these numbers on Trump, it’s not surprising to see that independents, by and large, side with Democrats in the NBC/WSJ poll.

But there’s one exception — on whether to impeach and remove Trump.

Based on what they know today, 43 percent of all Americans say that Congress should impeach and remove the president from office, while 49 percent say that he shouldn’t be impeached and should remain in office.

Among independents, it 39 percent impeach/remove, versus 45 percent don’t impeach/remain.

Compare that with how independents break on the other questions in the poll:

  • On Trump’s job performance: 37 percent approve, 56 percent disapprove
  • On whether Trump has been honest and trustworthy: 28 percent yes, 58 percent no
  • On whether the allegations are serious and should be investigated: 51 percent yes, 42 percent no.

So independents are pretty much aligned with Democrats on every question regarding the Ukraine/whistleblower story, with the exception being a big one.

Whether to impeach and remove the president right now.

But also note that the overall impeach and remove number has the potential to grow.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 12 percent

That’s the share of adults in the latest NBC/WSJ poll who both disapprove of the job the president is doing but do not support his impeachment and removal from office based on what they know now.

According to the pollsters, this group is demographically more likely to lean Democratic, describe themselves as moderate, and have a college degree.

A majority of them say that the allegations against Trump are serious and that they are following the news about impeachment closely. Three-quarters say they think the charges should be fully investigated and that Trump has not been honest and truthful about the process.

2020 Vision: Biden’s numbers have barely budged

As for Joe Biden, the NBC/WSJ poll finds that his numbers have barely moved since the Ukraine story became news (and since he and his son have gotten caught up in it — without any evidence of wrongdoing).

Thirty-three percent of Americans say they have a positive view of the former vice president, while 34 percent have a negative view.

In August’s NBC/WSJ poll, Biden’s fav/unfav rating was 34 percent positive, 38 percent negative.

Oh, and by way of comparison, Trump’s fav/unfav rating in the new NBC/WSJ poll is 38 percent positive, 53 percent negative.

Yesterday’s national Quinnipiac poll also showed little movement in Biden’s numbers: In a hypothetical matchup, he leads Trump by 11 points, while Elizabeth Warren leads by 8 points and Bernie Sanders by 7 points.

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden, in New Hampshire, holds town halls in Rochester and Manchester… Elizabeth Warren, in South Carolina, holds a town hall on student with Rep. James Clyburn… Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are in Iowa… And Michael Bennet is in the Granite State.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

After recovering from a heart attack, Bernie Sanders is going to “change the nature” of his campaign, NBC’s Gary Grumbach reports: “When asked by NBC News what he meant by ‘change the nature,’ Sanders said he plans to slow down his pace of campaigning. ‘Probably not doing four rallies a day. I'm not quite sure, I could be wrong on this, I don't know if there is anybody who did more rallies than we have done all over the states and I, you know, probably not do three or four rallies a day, do two or do other things as well.’”

Cory Booker met with the Des Moines Register Editorial Board while in Iowa where, per NBC’s Priscilla Thompson, he wasn’t asked about “his history with charter schools or engagement with pharmaceutical companies, something he seems to get asked about often on the trail.” Booker did express concern about the judicial branch, and said President Trump has “surrendered his appointment power to right wing extremist groups that then made every judge that had federal aspirations try to go to the margins as far as they could to try out for them.” When the editorial board asked how he’d work to change the court, Thompson reports, “Booker said he had ideas that he would not foreshadow now because they’ll be part of negotiations.”

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Poll position

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we summed up the NBC/WSJ poll results in 4 minutes.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Grave warnings are coming from the Turkish-Syrian border.

Get ready for a constitutional clash over impeachment.

The Supreme Court appears to be divided over an LGBTQ discrimination case. (And Neil Gorsuch could be the swing vote!)

Mark your calendar: MSNBC and the Washington Post will co-host the November presidential debate.

Bernie Sanders says he was “dumb” to ignore symptoms that led to his heart attack.

Trump Agenda: “Crazy”

A White House official told the Ukraine whistleblower that Trump’s phone call with Zelensky was “frightening” and “crazy,” per the New York Times.

Nancy Pelosi is issuing a warning to Trump as the administration pledges not to cooperate with the House’s impeachment investigation.

House Democrats are subpoenaing the E.U. ambassador after the State Department blocked his testimony yesterday.

Ralph Reed says evangelicals “have a moral obligation to enthusiastically back” Trump in 2020.

Former president Jimmy Carter has some words of advice for Trump.

2020: Here comes the scrutiny

Is Elizabeth Warren ready for more scrutiny as a frontrunner?

Here’s what’s going on with the Trump campaign vs. a Minneapolis arena.

No surprise here — Dianne Feinstein is backing Joe Biden over Kamala Harris.

Here’s what the latest poll says about Saturday’s gubernatorial race in Louisiana.

Republicans are trying to drum up votes for Trump among… the Amish?

Young climate activists say Biden hasn’t done enough to earn their support.