MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A slim majority of Americans now favor the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. That is the finding of a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, but an even bigger percentage say they think the president's future should be decided at the ballot box rather than through the impeachment process. NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is here to talk us through these results.
Hey there, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there. Thanks for having me.
KELLY: Glad to have you here. So a majority now is in favor of the impeachment inquiry. What are the numbers, and how have they changed since the last poll?
MONTANARO: So it's a slight uptick from the last poll a couple of weeks ago. Now 52% of people are saying that they're in favor of the inquiry. Forty-three percent are against it. That's a change from what was 49% approve to 46% disapprove. Largely, that's because of Independents. They've completely flipped. They went from 44% in favor and 50% against to now 54% approving and 41% against. That's a complete reversal, a net 19-point swing.
Now, when it comes to simply asking if people support impeaching Trump or removing him from office, people are more split kind of down the middle, so there's some convincing that Democrats really still need to do to sway those few persuadable people who are out there. But like other polls that have been out this week, support for what Democrats are doing is moving in their direction.
KELLY: Let me follow up on that phrase you just used - few persuadable people...
KELLY: ...Who could be won over. That suggests plenty of people have made up their minds where they sit on this.
MONTANARO: Absolutely. I mean, polarization is alive and well. Nine in 10 Democrats say that they're in favor of the inquiry. Nine in 10 Republicans say that they're against it. In fact, two-thirds of Republicans say that they would vote against their own member of Congress if they voted for impeachment of Trump. That's pretty different of an atmosphere than we had in Washington 20 years ago when Bill Clinton was impeached because back then in 1998, when Clinton was impeached, a majority said that members of Congress shared their moral values and shared the moral values of the rest of the country. Now it's the opposite. A majority say that they think that a majority of Congress does not share their moral values. That helps explain why people have been so immovable. As one of our pollsters said, people are being guided by whose side they think they are on.
KELLY: That is depressing. Another thing to ask you about - the argument that the president has been making, which is that moving forward with impeachment would represent overturning the democratic will of the voters who put him in the White House in 2016 - did our poll look at that?
MONTANARO: Yeah, and I expect he's going to continue to make that argument, especially after seeing these numbers because it's one of the more fascinating things our poll found. Even though people are moving in the direction of supporting the inquiry, almost six in 10 said that they'd rather see Trump's fate decided at the ballot box rather than by impeachment.
Now, that really does reflect the caution and reticence that a lot of Americans have had about going through with impeachment. It's part of why you saw Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, kind of try to hold back the progressives at the gate, but here we are. And, you know, Democrats who have been around a while say that they think that this is politically risky, needs to be handled in a way that keeps that majority that's now in favor of the inquiry on board.
KELLY: All right. So let's take these findings and look ahead. Who does this slight shift help? Who does it hurt?
MONTANARO: Well, people are pretty split in our poll on who they think it helps. Forty-four percent said Democrats. Forty-three percent said Trump. That's frankly the base of both parties, so no one really knows. One person they think that this is hurting is Joe Biden, who'd been leading in the polls on the Democratic side until this controversy. Half of people say they think it will hurt him, while a little over a quarter think it will help, and that's because President Trump has included him in this controversy, trying to deflect about his son being on the board of a gas company in Ukraine.
KELLY: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thank you.
MONTANARO: You're welcome.
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