The Slatest

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Trump’s Unshrinkable Core of Support Might Be Shrinkable After All

Hill, wearing a red desk and jacket, walks out of an elevator behind a police officer.
Former National Security Council staffer Fiona Hill on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

The relaunched Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative estimate of the likelihood that the House votes to impeach Trump before the end of his first term.

The news now, on a daily basis, is that someone or other—someone who, at one point, was enough of a partisan or self-deluding “adult in the room” that they were willing to work for Donald Trump—has testified or plans to testify to Congress that the administration’s Ukraine policy revolved around a clearly corrupt quid pro quo Joe Biden smear operation run illicitly out of Rudy Giuliani’s “law” office.

Probably not unrelatedly, the percentage of Americans who say Trump should be impeached is rising slowly but steadily. FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregator currently has 50.3 percent of the public supporting impeachment with 43.8 percent opposed—numbers just a few ticks away from matching the president’s overall approval/disapproval job performance ratings.

The Iron Law of American Politics during the Trump era has been that no matter how ghastly his behavior in office, an impenetrable Republican and Republican-leaning bloc—40 percent of voters—would continue to support him, which meant the institutional GOP would continue to support him too. That 40 percent floor has not yet been breached in either approval or impeachment polling, but there are some signs that such a shift might be possible. In addition to the actual MAGA-friendly members of Trump’s administration who are blowing the whistle and/or selling him out, the pursuit of a Ukrainian Biden investigation has been described as inappropriate (albeit not “impeachable”) by solidly partisan Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. Only 13 percent of Republicans think Trump should be impeached, but that’s up from 8 percent, which is what the number was three weeks ago when the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky was released.

Providing even more detail about the soft margins of the anti-impeachment electorate is a poll released this past Friday by the Navigator group. (Navigator is an overtly progressive operation, but its results tend to match those of non-ideological pollsters, and its avowed purpose is not to cheerlead the Democratic Party but to provide a realistic picture of which progressive messages work and which don’t.) Navigator found that 52 percent of the public supports impeachment and 43 percent opposes it. But it also found that only 25 percent of the public is firmly convinced that Trump hasn’t done anything wrong. Five percent of respondents called themselves “undecided” on the subject, while 12 percent said that while Trump “may have done something wrong,” it’s “too soon to say whether it justifies impeachment.” When Navigator asked whether impeachment would be justified if the allegations made against Trump in the administration whistleblower complaint about Ukraine “are proven true,” 60 percent said it would be justified and only 31 percent said it would not.

The thing about asking what would happen if the whistleblower’s allegations are proven true is that, for the most part, they already have been, whether by the White House–released account of the call or by leaks from the testimony of other administration figures. It’s possible that what emerges in ensuing weeks and months might be even more damning than what’s already out there—evidence of even more explicit quid pro quo demands, material involving inappropriate conversations with the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia, etc. But everything that is currently known confirms the whistleblower account. Even if all the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation does is emphasize this point in various hearings and summarize it in a high-profile report, then—at least going by what people said to Navigator—the portion of Americans who oppose impeachment could shrink by roughly a quarter.

If Trump were to lose a quarter of his base of support across the country, according to Morning Consult’s data, his approval rating would be below 50 percent in every state, since there’s nowhere in the U.S. right now where he’s even above 60.

That’s pretty bad! Today’s meter will stay at 90, but it’s more of a mathematically sound 90 than it was previously.

The Impeach-O-Meter at 90 percent.
Illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo and Lisa Larson-Walker/Slate. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images