A Cautionary Message For Democrats In Latest Poll Numbers

New poll numbers suggest that Congressional Democrats need to be careful about how aggressively they pursue their investigations of the Trump White House.

The latest poll from CNN and SSRS, which I already cited in my post regarding the President’s job approval, contains what clearly seems to be cautionary news for Democrats eager to proceed forward with aggressive investigations of the President and, potentially, impeachment:

The American public increasingly feels that Democrats in Congress are going too far in investigating the President — 44% say Democrats are doing too much on that score, up from 38% saying so in March. That shift stems largely from independents, 46% of whom now say congressional Democrats are going too far.

Congressional Democrats have called for Attorney General William Barr to testify this week, including in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, and have issued subpoenas to try to gain access to the full, unredacted version of Mueller’s report and for former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify. The Treasury Department recently missed a deadline set by House Democrats for turning over the President’s tax returns, and the Trump administration is fighting subpoenas issued for financial records from accounting firms and banks connected to Trump

Even with growing concern about overreach, majorities want Congress to investigate whether Trump committed obstruction of justice in the course of the Mueller investigation (58%) and to pursue legal action to obtain the full, unredacted version of the Mueller report (61%). The public is divided on Barr’s handling of the release of Mueller’s report — 44% approve and 43% disapprove, with a wide partisan gap.
About two-thirds still say Trump ought to release his tax returns (66%, including 52% who consider it important for the President to do). And most, 54%, say the President is not doing enough to cooperate with Democratic investigations.

The poll finds no change in the share of Americans who say they believe the President ought to be impeached compared with a March survey conducted before the completion of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Overall, 37% say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 59% say they do not feel that way. And while most who do back impeachment feel that way strongly (34% of adults strongly support impeachment, just 3% back it but not strongly), the share who strongly oppose it is larger (45% say they feel strongly that the President should not be impeached).

These poll results, of course, are largely consistent with other numbers that we’ve seen in the wake of the release of the Mueller report in mid-April. For example, recent polling has made it clear that the American public, by and large, does not want Congress to pursue impeachment against the President even though they believe the President lied about the matters that were under investigation by the Special Counsel. Additionally, Democrats who have been meeting with constituents during the recess that is coming to an end this week do not seem to be encountering the pressure to pursue impeachment notwithstanding the overwhelming disapproval of the President’s job performance and veracity expressed by these same voters.

The results of this latest poll should provide Democrats with yet more reason to be cautious about how they pursue charges against the President and how they conduct the investigations that they have already begun to pursue and those that may start up in the future. These numbers suggest that there is at least a sizeable part of the public that believes that Congress may be going too far in its zeal to investigate the President. While these numbers don’t constitute a majority of those surveyed, the number is large enough that Democrats would seem to need to be careful about how aggressively they pursue these investigations and about the scope of those investigations. Otherwise they face the danger of a situation where it appears to the public that Congress is more concerned with partisan warfare than it is with governing. This isn’t unlike the situation Republicans faced in the final years of the Obama Administration when they were launching multiple investigations of everything from the IRS to the Benghazi attack, all of which amounted to nothing.

All of this may change, of course, if Congressional investigations uncover information about the President, his Administration, or his businesses that is truly earthshattering. In the present climate, though, it’s unclear what exactly that would be. After nearly two and a half years of the Trump Presidency, one has to wonder what it could possibly be that would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to public opinion. While the President remains historically unpopular, his numbers have remained largely consistent since the early days of his Administration notwithstanding the outrageous rhetoric, the lies, the revelations regarding Russia, the revelations regarding the President’s involvement in a scheme to hide information from the public on the eve of the election, and the inflammatory rhetoric that has become a daily part of life in the Trump universe. What it all means regarding the President’s chances of being re-elected is not clear at this point but it’s also clear that the American public isn’t all that eager about a future where the business of Washington is increasingly tied up in endless investigations.

None of this is to suggest that Democrats in Congress should stop investigating the President, following up on the Mueller report, or looking at other matters involving the President such as his finances and his repeated violations of the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution. They have a Constitutional obligation to investigate these matters, and to oversee the Executive Branch, that overrides whatever the polls might say. At the same time, though, one cannot ignore the role that politics plays in all of this and Democrats need to be careful not to create the appearance that they are ganging up on the President and his Administration or that they are neglecting their own duty to govern. If they aren’t careful about how they proceed, they could end up seeing the whole thing backfire right on the eve of the 2020 election. And that’s only going to help the President.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Teve says:

    Doug’s now subcontracting his posts out to a nice friend who contacted him online named Ronald Frump.

  2. @Teve:

    I’m just reporting the numbers my friend.

  3. Bruce Henry says:

    I don’t think the Republicans worried too much about looking “too partisan” when they investigated and re-investigated and re-re-investigated Fast and Furious and Benghazi and IRS and ACORN and all the other bullshit they investigated and re-investigated and re-re-re-re-investigated. Now that we have a REAL scandal on our hands Democrats are supposed to be careful about looking “too partisan.”

    NO.

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  4. @Bruce Henry:

    Ignore the numbers if you want. I would suggest that the GOP’s endless investigations were one of the reasons that the public eventually turned against them and denied them control of the House of Representatives.

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  5. SenyorDave says:

    Obviously, impeachment is on the shelf for the immediate future. What we do know is
    1. Trump lied repeatedly about why he fired Comey.
    2. Trump lied repeatedly about Russian business dealings.
    3. Trump had DEC violations about payments to Stormy Daniels.
    4. William Barr intentionally misled Congress regarding the Mueller Report

    If impeachment were based on an independent fact finder, how many people here believe he would be impeached?
    Also, for those who support Trump, what would it take to stop supporting him?

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  6. al Ameda says:

    These poll results, of course, are largely consistent with other numbers that we’ve seen in the wake of the release of the Mueller report in mid-April. For example, recent polling has made it clear that the American public, by and large, does not want Congress to pursue impeachment against the President even though they believe the President lied about the matters that were under investigation by the Special Counsel.

    Those numbers notwithstanding, Trump is virtually forcing the hand of Democrats.

    If Trump continues to defy Congressional subpoenas, Democrats will be forced to grow a spine and inform Trump that unless the subpoenas are complied with post-haste that Impeachment Proceedings will begin in the House. At that point Democrats will have every justification, beyond those obstruction of justice actions that Mueller pointed to in his report, to impeach.

  7. @al Ameda:

    Those numbers notwithstanding, Trump is virtually forcing the hand of Democrats.

    Keep in mind the possibility that this could be a deliberate strategy

  8. al Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Keep in mind the possibility that this could be a deliberate strategy

    Yes. I think it is the strategy here. I think Trump is betting that Democrats won’t have the nerve to do this.

  9. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @Teve: Congratulations Teve! You–as John McLaughlin used to say about Fred Barnes–“have inadvertently stumbled upon the truth”–or in this case, the problem. The Democrats in Congress have returned to the business of leading (in at least the case of the House) the nation and discover themselves (as one movie character I recall put it) “shoehorned into God’s little acre–east of the rock and west of the hard place.”

    As I noted in the post just downrange of this one (I read from bottom to top) the people who think the Democrats are going too far in their investigation of Trump–who knows, perhaps they dislike the idea of several rounds of Benghazi!!!!!!, Ver, 2.o more than you do–may be that illusive *swing vote* everybody keeps talking about. If that is the case, Democrats may be facing the Hobson’s Choice of picking no hearings–thus alienating at least a portion (and from this venue, that portion looks sizeable) of the people who might be able to vote Trump out–or hearings–thus alienating that portion of the electorate who may be the illusive swing vote. Not an admirable position. Wouldn’t want to go there; wouldn’t be prudent.

    Feel free to mock or discount my musings at your leisure–I’m just an abyss and we generally don’t know nuthin. Less than ignint crackers even.

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  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @SenyorDave: People who claim in public to be Evangelical Christians were supporting the owner of a cat house chain in a run for public office even after he died. There isn’t anything in your potential arsenal to break people away from Trump. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.

  11. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    Just one more random thought and then I’ll stop tormenting y’all (For today). Be careful what you wish for in terms of the utility of impeaching Trump. For my take of things–as the abyss that I am–I see some of the posts and comments of some of our more conservative hosts and commenters as seeking their way back to the GOP. They are stymied at this point because Trump is so repulsive, but conservative policy is where both their home and their heart are. It’s possible that impeaching Trump will permit these folks to rush back to the welcoming arms of Mike Pence–who will continue to follow the policies of Trump the GOP, but in a “kinder and gentler” fashion than that boor Trump. LGBTQ bashing, child separation, tax breaks for the plutocrats, isolating foreign policy, science denial, and all the rest will become sanitized because Pence isn’t openly an a$$h0le like Trump is.

    Certainly, I’m being hyperbolic here, it’s what abysses do. But, what will you have won? Look into the abyss. It’s winking back.

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  12. An Interested Party says:

    It’s possible that impeaching Trump will permit these folks to rush back to the welcoming arms of Mike Pence…

    Not really, considering that impeachment doesn’t mean Trump’s removal…meanwhile, look how screwed up things are in this country…Trump is dirty and everybody knows it, but Democrats must be cautious in how they do anything relating to him…wouldn’t want to upset those independents…

  13. James Pearce says:

    This is what the polls reflect:

    The Democrats’ palpable impeachment panic, set against the GOP’s unwavering claims of vindication and lust for revenge, has moved public opinion away from impeachment, and that view will harden in the very districts Democrats think they’re protecting.

  14. de stijl says:

    @The abyss that is the soul of cracker:

    A cri de couer with a nym change…

    In the long run, we’re just one stupid nation in a long history of failed tribes, kingdoms, empires, and republics. If we wink out, it is not the end of the world. It would suck – I like the American experiment! But some of the most interesting ideas for governance happen in the ruins of former glory.

    Besides, China is going to end up top dog pretty soon anyway. It’s inevitable.

    Fatalism is an easy dodge. We’ve survived for 200,000 years. We’ll get through this too. (If we forget about out nuclear weapon stockpiles, that is.) So what if your great-grandkids will speak Mandarin; my great grand-parents spoke Swedish.

    Chin up!

  15. Crusty Dem says:

    I’m old enough to remember when the Republicans impeached one of the most popular presidents of my lifetime over a consensual affair and paid a terrible price at the polls 18 months later, when they won the white house and both branches of congress…

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  16. Console says:

    Impeachment reads as “Trump gets impeached” not “nebulous array of democrats are impeaching Trump.” You can’t expect the American people to make your case for you. That’s not their job. And you definitely can’t expect the media to make your case for you and sway public opinion, that’s not their job either.

  17. Tyrell says:

    @The abyss that is the soul of cracker: I recently saw our House rep during the break. I asked him about these investigations: “Is that all you people do up there now?” He just laughed.
    If I could talk to Congress I would tell them to get off their duffs and get to work helping the people; stop all this investigatin’ and fussin’. Enough!
    Most of them are consumed by their own greed! Vote all of them out.

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  18. de stijl says:

    @Tyrell:

    If I could talk to Congress I would tell them to get off their duffs and get to work helping the people; stop all this investigatin’ and fussin’.

    You’re un-ironic here. Oh, Lord! Bless your heart.

  19. Andy says:

    None of this matters right now – the election is a LONG way away (in political terms and memory). Just please Democrats, don’t nominate a turd.

  20. Gustopher says:

    Digging into the polling data…

    Of people who approve of the job Trump is doing, 2% believe he should be impeached. Of those who disapprove, 68% believe he should be impeached.

    Similarly, 84% of Trump Approvers believe congress is investigating Trump too much, compared to 11% of those who disapprove.

    If you’re wondering about the people who aren’t sure if they approve of Trump or not, that’s 5% (43% approve, 52% disapprove)

    I don’t think we have to worry about the Democrats going too fast on impeachment when nearly 70% of the reachable electorate favors impeaching the toad already.

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  21. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    I don’t think we have to worry about the Democrats going too fast on impeachment when nearly 70% of the reachable electorate favors impeaching the toad already.

    Only Democrats have causal agency. Republicans are merely swept up by events and have innocent interactions with friendly foreigners from many lands including Russia who dangled inticing fruits, but playful, innocent banter is bent back on them as wrong or immoral or shameful or treasonous, oh my!

  22. Kathy says:

    The Democrats are in a difficult position. Any significant legislation coming out of the House won’t make it pass the Senate, if it’s even scheduled for a vote. So that rules out their main job of legislating. Their job of oversight can be performed in such a way that it will produce results. The math seems simple.

    Just the same, no one likes a fishing expedition. They have to be careful not to make too big a deal out of a subject they don’t know will yield results. Say they make much about Dennison’s tax returns, and when they finally get them it turns out there’s nothing to see. That won’t play well.

    They also cannot be seen as throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

    On the other hand, if Trump obstructs all oversight, large and small, on flimsy pretexts, what else can they do?

  23. dennis says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I would suggest that the GOP’s endless investigations were one of the reasons that the public eventually turned against them and denied them control of the House of Representatives.

    No, Doug; it was their relentless attack on the ACA.

  24. charon says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m just reporting the numbers my friend

    Numbers based on data collected prior to the Bill Barr show on Wednesday.

  25. charon says:

    @Kathy:

    On the other hand, if Trump obstructs all oversight, large and small, on flimsy pretexts, what else can they do?

    Precedent vs. utility. Regardless how it plays politically, do the Democrats allow a precedent that the President is above the law to be normalized? Can a precedent of the President and his administration not be subject to oversight be normalized?

    Does Nancy Pelosi have any jealousy over the HOR’s legitimate prerogatives being disrespected? How long will she tolerate Trump’s thumb being twisted in her eye?

  26. charon says:

    @Kathy:

    Say they make much about Dennison’s tax returns, and when they finally get them it turns out there’s nothing to see.

    That example is extraordinarily unlikely, based on what we already know and on Trump’s behavior. In any case NY AG is also after Trump’s financials, maybe we learn something from that.

  27. Teve says:

    @charon:

    Precedent vs. utility. Regardless how it plays politically, do the Democrats allow a precedent that the President is above the law to be normalized?

    while I’m still on the fence about impeachment, a few weeks ago I was strongly against it based on no conviction in the Senate. But I’m finding it hard to counter the argument that if Democrats do nothing, they’re normalizing the idea that as long as the president’s party can thwart conviction, he’s allowed to do anything he wants.

    That would be a very dangerous example to show to the unknown future charismatic Republican candidate who is right now watching, realizing that Trump chumps will fall for anything, and isn’t incompetent.

  28. charon says:

    @The abyss that is the soul of cracker:

    I see some of the posts and comments of some of our more conservative hosts and commenters as seeking their way back to the GOP. They are stymied at this point because Trump is so repulsive, but conservative policy is where both their home and their heart are.

    Trump has normalized bigotry, racism and the unitary executive as the GOP brand. That’s their brand now, it will not come off readily. And Merrick Garland predated Trump, that is who they mostly are now anyway. We win, you lose, whatever it takes, screw norms.

  29. charon says:

    @SenyorDave:

    Also, for those who support Trump, what would it take to stop supporting him?

    A fresh new better bright shiny object?

    These people love fascism more than they love Trump, (example: Trump’s “Nuremberg ” rallies) that is what Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and a lot of megachurch pastors have been moving them towards for decades now.

  30. Kathy says:

    @charon:

    That example is extraordinarily unlikely, based on what we already know and on Trump’s behavior.

    We thought the same about conspiracy with Russia, and there was no there there. There were things that would embarrass Trump, yes, and questionable actions too, but we know that won’t cost him any significant support. Hell, he does embarrassing thing son Twitter on a daily basis.

    So there may be something embarrassing on his tax returns, but I doubt we’ll find anything criminal.

  31. Kathy says:

    @SenyorDave:

    Also, for those who support Trump, what would it take to stop supporting him?

    A humane immigration policy (especially one that would work), a civilized approach to the political opposition, an admission that he attempted to obstruct justice (unless he boasts about doing it and getting away with it).

  32. charon says:

    @Teve:

    But I’m finding it hard to counter the argument that if Democrats do nothing, they’re normalizing the idea that as long as the president’s party can thwart conviction, he’s allowed to do anything he wants.

    Pelosi’s caucus has freshmen Democrats from purplish districts that she needs to protect, thus tread carefully. Plus, of course, the Electoral College. Still, Trump seems headed towards crossing lines that she and Nadler and Schiff will have a hard time tolerating unchallenged.