Here's why the impeachment polling isn't moving
Posted December 3, 2019 7:00 a.m. EST
CNN — The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has had little impact on public opinion. In late November, just like in October, 50% of Americans wanted to impeach and remove Trump from office in CNN/SSRS polling.
Moreover, Trump's approval ratings remain in the low 40s, and impeachment really hasn't shaken up the Democratic race for president.
The lack of movement in the political environment may render a news junkie (perhaps you, the person reading this article) with a loss for words.
Here's the deal, though: Persuadable voters on impeachment aren't paying close attention to the impeachment proceedings, and impeachment is a low priority for voters overall.
Most voters are locked into their impeachment positions. About 85% of voters in our October and November polls said they felt strongly that Trump should or shouldn't be impeached and removed. Only about 15% of voters didn't have a strong feeling about impeachment or had no opinion at all.
It's this 15% that you might think would be swayed by news coverage of the impeachment proceedings. There's just one problem with this line of thought: They mostly aren't paying attention.
Of those voters, a small 12% of them say they are paying very close attention the impeachment proceedings. The majority (55%) say they aren't paying close attention.
Compare this persuadable group to the about 85% of voters who feel strongly about impeachment. A majority (51%) among them say they are paying very close attention to the impeachment proceedings. Only 13% say they aren't paying close attention. In other words, many of those who feel strongly about impeachment are keeping an eye on proceedings that are unlikely to change their mind about impeachment.
These voters who feel strongly about impeachment are also already locked into their opinions about Trump. A near unanimous 98% of those who strongly favor impeaching and removing Trump disapprove of his overall job performance. A similar 96% who are strongly against impeachment and removing Trump approve of his job performance. There's just not a lot of room for Trump's job performance numbers to move among those who are locked into their impeachment opinion.
But there's another element at play here: Voters feel impeachment is not all that important in the grand scheme of things.
Our poll released last week asked voters to tell us how important eight different issues would be in determining their 2020 vote. Only 46% said the impeachment inquiry into Trump was extremely or very important to their vote. That was good enough for dead last. To put it in further perspective, the top two issues for voters were economy at 83% and health care at 80%.
This current polling reminds me a lot of the polling surrounding former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian investigation. Despite it getting a lot of news coverage, voters said it was among the least important issues for them and their 2020 vote.
When you break it down to independents, the numbers are even more stark. A mere 42% of independents say the impeachment inquiry is extremely or very important to their 2020 vote, which is the lowest of any issue. In fact, climate change (48%) is the only other issue in which less than 60% said it is extremely or very important to their 2020 vote. Meanwhile, 84% of independents say the economy is.
The low ranking of the impeachment inquiry fits with what is being seen on the campaign trail, too. Very few voters are asking the candidates about it.
Unless something dramatically changes in the impeachment proceedings, don't expect voters to start caring more about impeachment. But even if something does happen, these poll numbers suggest that it may not have that large of an impact.