California voters strongly support impeaching Trump, poll shows

As House Democrats move forward in their effort to remove President Trump from office, a new poll finds California voters deeply split along party lines, with a majority supporting impeachment.

More than 8 in 10 self-identified Democrats in the state support impeaching Trump and removing him from office while about 8 in 10 self-identified Republicans oppose doing so, according to the latest Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times.

Independents who don’t lean to either party split closely on impeachment, with 40% in favor and 36% opposed. That’s a relatively small group, however, only about 1 in 8 California voters, since most self-identified independents lean toward one party or the other.

Views of whether the House should impeach Trump divide sharply by party. Self-identified Democrats significantly outnumber self-identified Republicans in the state.

(Chris Keller/Los Angeles Times)

Nationally, voters are closely divided on impeachment, polls show. But in California, where Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans, the sharp divide among partisans translates into a strong margin for impeaching Trump — 57% in favor, 30% opposed, with 13% saying they either don’t know or feel it’s too soon to say.

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Majority of California voters favor impeachment of the president

(Chris Keller/ Los Angeles Times)

The partisan divide also means widespread approval of the two California Democrats who have steered the impeachment process in the House — Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank.

What it does not mean, however, is any significant change in how voters view Trump or his potential reelection — a lack of movement that’s reflected in national polls.

The president has been unpopular in California since he took office in 2017, and a large majority of voters in the state oppose him. That hasn’t changed: California appears on track to reject Trump’s reelection bid, likely by an historic margin.

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But the impeachment crisis has not worsened his standing. Nor does it appear to have changed minds on either side.

Almost all partisans, on both sides, say they feel “strongly” about their positions.

“The net effect of two weeks of televised impeachment hearings appears only to have dug California voters in deeper to their earlier held partisan positions about the president. Few minds have been changed,” said Mark DiCamillo, the poll director for the Berkeley institute.

The roughly 1 in 8 voters who remain uncertain also overwhelmingly say they aren’t paying close attention to the impeachment battle, following the typical pattern that the voters who most closely follow news tend to be the most partisan.

Overall, 42% of the state’s voters said they were following news of the impeachment process very closely, another 40% said they were following somewhat closely, while 18% said they were not paying close attention.

The poll of 3,482 registered voters statewide was conducted Nov. 21-27 — after the conclusion of the two weeks of public hearings that the Intelligence Committee conducted in mid-November. The results for the full voter sample have an estimated margin of error of 2.5 percentage points in either direction.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing and is expected to begin drawing up articles of impeachment later this month. The full House is expected to vote on impeachment before Christmas.

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If impeachment passes — as seems all but assured given the Democrats’ majority in the chamber — the Senate probably would conduct a trial in January.

Asked what the Senate should do, California voters divided the same way they did on a House impeachment — 55% said the senators should convict Trump and remove him from office, while 28% said they should not and 17% were undecided or said it was too soon to know.

Overall, 50% of voters favored both a House impeachment and a Senate conviction while 39% opposed both and 7% favored the House impeaching Trump, but were either opposed to the Senate convicting him or weren’t sure about it.

The poll findings “really shows the solidification of party lines when it comes to Trump,” said Berkeley political science professor Eric Schickler. “It’s a sharp contrast with Watergate, where over time, you saw Republicans coming around to the idea that President Nixon should go.”

“There has been more news, more surprises in this presidency than almost any, and yet his approval rating has remained the same,” and how people feel about impeachment has largely matched whether or not they approve of Trump, he added.

When Pelosi first announced on Sept. 24 that the House would begin an impeachment inquiry, many political analysts predicted the move would hurt Democrats’ prospects, much as the impeachment of President Clinton hurt Republicans a generation ago.

That hasn’t happened. Instead, both in California and nationally, impeachment appears to have unified the Democrats’ factions.

By 50% to 32%, Democrats in the state said they want Democrats in Congress to focus on impeaching Trump. Republicans, overwhelmingly, said Democrats in Congress should focus on other national priorities.

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The two sides also divide on whether the impeachment process has been fair, with nearly 8 in 10 Democrats saying the process has been fair and impartial, while just over 8 in 10 Republicans say it has not been.

Schiff, who ran the process in the Intelligence Committee and likely will continue to do so if the House votes to send the impeachment to the Senate for trial, has gained stature among Democrats, which could help him if he pursues statewide office, as he has long contemplated.

Four years ago, when Sen. Barbara Boxer announced her retirement and Schiff thought about getting into the race to replace her, a Los Angeles Times poll found only 19% of people statewide felt they knew enough about him to have an opinion.

Now, roughly three-quarters of California voters have a view of him, putting him in the same league statewide as Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, who succeeded Boxer.

Overall, 44% of the state’s voters approve of Schiff’s job performance, the poll found, while 31% disapprove, a more favorable ratio than either of the senators. The poll found voters slightly negative on Feinstein’s job performance, 46% approval to 52% disapproval, and evenly divided on Harris, 50% to 49%.

As with the impeachment that has made him well known, views about Schiff are highly partisan: Democrats approve of his job performance 70% to 7%, while Republicans disapprove 80% to 7%.

Views of Pelosi are similarly partisan. Overall, the state’s voters approve of her job performance 53% to 46%. Democrats approve 81% to 19% while Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove of her, 91% to 8%.

Pelosi, like previous House speakers, has been a polarizing figure through much of her tenure. But Republican efforts to make her a centerpiece of their midterm election campaign fell flat in the 2018 as Democrats regained control of the House.

The speaker’s decision to put Schiff and the Intelligence Committee in charge of the impeachment investigation has “paid off for the party, and for Schiff personally,” Schickler said.

“There’s a long history of members of Congress raising their profiles by leading high-profile hearings. Schiff is providing another example of that.”