With the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump being announced by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi last week, a great amount of attention has been paid toward public attitudes toward Democrats’ goals in Congress.
As prior reporting from HillReporter.com has noted, there’s an apparent split on the question of impeachment itself at this time, but most Americans are supportive of the inquiry moving forward.
How does that compare with attempts at impeaching a president in the past? We have two recent examples to look back upon.
Two presidents have been impeached in American history, though neither was indicted in a subsequent Senate trial. Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by Republican House of Representatives, but survived removal attempts later on.
Polling for Johnson’s impeachment, which took place in the late 1860s, is, understandably, not available. For Clinton, however, there’s data we can look at, which shows that the public generally didn’t support an impeachment of him at the time.
According to data compiled by CNN, in December of 1998 when the inquiry was announced against Clinton, only 45 percent of Americans supported the move by Republicans in Congress. A majority, 53 percent, opposed impeachment.
Another president, of course, faced impeachment but never had to deal with it. An impeachment inquiry against President Richard Nixon was announced in 1973, right after the “Saturday Night Massacre” in which he fired many Justice Department officials who refused to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Even after that event took place, polling showed support for impeaching Nixon was way low — only 38 percent supported the inquiry’s directive, while 53 percent opposed it.
Later, as more information came out regarding Nixon’s other actions while in office, support reversed, with more Americans supporting impeachment than opposed to it in 1974. But before any action could be taken against Nixon, he resigned from office.
In perilous times: Americans are now inclined to support impeaching President Trump and removing him from office, a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds. https://t.co/gaXxb809Se
— USA TODAY Politics (@usatodayDC) October 3, 2019
Those initial numbers from previous impeachment attempts for other presidents should worry Trump — his numbers are markedly higher. According to a Quinnipiac Poll released earlier this week, support for an impeachment inquiry is presently at 52 percent of Americans, while 45 percent oppose the inquiry.
Additionally, those who oppose the inquiry don’t necessarily do so because they think the idea is bad. A YouGov/Progressive Change Institute poll found similar numbers (43 percent) opposed to the inquiry. But of those who were opposed, about a third of respondents said their opinion was based on worries that impeachment could produce a negative political outcome for Democrats in Congress if the inquiry moves forward.
Here’s the bottom line: if support for impeachment inquiries for Clinton and Nixon were lower than they are for Trump, then it could spell trouble for the current commander-in-chief. Both Nixon and Clinton were dealt political blows as a result of impeachment inquiries being announced, even with public sentiment being initially low in both instances.
With support for an inquiry on Trump being comparably higher at this point in time, it stands to reason that he should expect at least a similar outcome as one of those two presidents — that an affirmative impeachment vote in the House is inevitable. What happens beyond that, however, is anyone’s guess.
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Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.