Americans are on high alert as the country seeks to regain its balance after the mob attack on the Capitol last week, according to a range of polls released in recent days that reveal a nation frustrated by the president’s actions and unsure of what comes next.
Three in four respondents to a nationwide CBS News/YouGov poll released Wednesday said it was at least somewhat likely that attempted violence could occur at President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration ceremony, which will take place on the Capitol steps just two weeks after armed extremists stormed the building.
A Quinnipiac University survey released this week found that 70 percent of voters expressed concern for the safety of elected officials in the country.
Clear majorities in those and other nationwide polls said President Trump bore the blame for the rioting at the Capitol last week, and his approval ratings have fallen to historic lows in his final days in office. But support for impeaching and removing him is not as widespread, although some polls do show a slim majority of the country backing it.
House Democrats, with the support of some Republicans, voted to impeach the president on Wednesday, the first time in history that a president has been impeached twice.
The CBS poll found 55 percent of Americans favoring his impeachment, and another survey out this week from Politico and Morning Consult showed 53 percent of voters supporting it. The Quinnipiac poll (conducted by phone, unlike the online-based CBS and Politico polls) found 52 percent of voters supporting the president’s removal from office.
Survey researchers of all methodologies went through a tough 2020, with polling systematically underestimating Mr. Trump’s support for the second time in two presidential elections. Pollsters haven’t conclusively determined what caused the failures, so it can be hard to be sure that support for Mr. Trump isn’t actually a few points stronger across the board.
But it is potentially more useful to watch for trends over time, which is more like comparing apples to apples. From this point of view, the public appears to be slightly — but meaningfully — more receptive to the idea of impeaching the president than it was at this time last year, when Democrats’ efforts to remove the president from office divided the country almost down the middle.
At that time, close to half of voters said they thought Democrats were pushing to remove the president for political reasons, and doubted that the charges against Mr. Trump were worth impeaching him for.
This time, the country is more broadly in agreement on the dire nature of what Mr. Trump has been accused of. Roughly six in 10 Americans said in the CBS poll that they thought the president had encouraged violence at the Capitol. A PBS NewsHour/Marist College survey conducted by phone on the day after the attack found 63 percent of the country saying the president bore considerable blame for the chaos.
The current impeachment proceedings are testing the bounds of the process, raising questions never contemplated before. Here’s what we know.
- How does the impeachment process work? Members of the House consider whether to impeach the president — the equivalent of an indictment in a criminal case — and members of the Senate consider whether to remove him, holding a trial in which senators act as the jury. The test, as set by the Constitution, is whether the president has committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House vote required only a simple majority of lawmakers to agree that the president has, in fact, committed high crimes and misdemeanors; the Senate vote requires a two-thirds majority.
- Does impeaching Trump disqualify him from holding office again? Conviction in an impeachment trial does not automatically disqualify Mr. Trump from future public office. But if the Senate were to convict him, the Constitution allows a subsequent vote to bar an official from holding “any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.” That vote would require only a simple majority of senators. There is no precedent, however, for disqualifying a president from future office, and the issue could end up before the Supreme Court.
- Can the Senate hold a trial after Biden becomes president? The Senate could hold a trial for Mr. Trump even after he has left office, though there is no precedent for it. Democrats who control the House can choose when to send their article of impeachment to the Senate, at which point that chamber would have to immediately move to begin the trial. But even if the House immediately transmitted the charge to the other side of the Capitol, an agreement between Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate would be needed to take it up before Jan. 19, a day before Mr. Biden is inaugurated. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said on Wednesday that he would not agree to such an agreement. Given that timetable, the trial probably will not start until after Mr. Biden is president.
The effects on Mr. Trump’s approval numbers have been severe. In all recent polls, his job approval is in the mid- to high 30s, with roughly three in five Americans disapproving of his performance.
While his unwavering support from about a third of the electorate has saved Mr. Trump from dipping into the 20s, where Richard M. Nixon and George W. Bush both were near the end of their presidencies, the latest numbers reflect his diminished support across the board, including among Republicans; his job approval among members of his own party, once almost universal, has dipped into the 70s.
Ed Goeas, a longtime Republican pollster, said that in recent weeks, Mr. Trump had scared away many of the last traditional-leaning, conservative G.O.P. voters who had remained in his corner.
“They’re the ones who have kind of moved to ‘This is just not true’ about what happened with the election being stolen,” Mr. Goeas said. “And then they see the events of last Wednesday, and I think they’re concerned.”
He added: “I think there’s a great deal of concern out there for what happens over the next eight days. What you’re going to see is the reality of: We now have more troops in D.C. than we have in Afghanistan. Kind of hard to miss.”
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