MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The public hearings underway in the House are historic, but an overwhelming majority of Americans say nothing they hear during these hearings is going to change their minds on whether or not the president should be impeached. That is according to a new NPR "PBS Newshour" Marist poll. NPR's Domenico Montanaro has been looking at the poll and its results. He's here now. Hi, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there.
KELLY: So first off, are people riveted or are they exhausted and tuning out? What does this poll tell us about how closely people are paying attention to everything going on?
MONTANARO: Well, they are paying pretty close attention, you know? Seventy percent of registered voters saying that they're paying very or fairly close attention to the House impeachment inquiry - but I have to say, Democrats are the ones who are paying the closest attention followed by Republicans and Independents after that. And Independents are generally, you know, the least engaged, and they're the ones who are the most swayable.
KELLY: All right, so let's drill down on a little bit of this. Does the poll tell us whether people approve of the job, disapprove of the job that Congress is doing by holding these hearings, by questioning all these witnesses?
MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, so there's a difference between whether people support the impeachment inquiry and whether they support the president being impeached and removed. So we're seeing about half of people - 50% say they approve of the inquiry itself. Forty-three percent say they don't. That's about the same as it's been for a couple of months. Late September, when we saw this shift with Independents who've moved toward Democrats, and Democrats have now kind of held them - but when it comes to whether they think President Trump should be removed from office, there's a partisan split - 45-44. You have 45% of people say he should be impeached and removed, 44% saying he should not. That's basically the floor for where any presidential candidate starts.
KELLY: What about the conduct of the president in general with the Ukraine issue?
KELLY: What does the poll say about that?
MONTANARO: Well, here, there's little ambiguity, really. I mean, 70% of people think that what the president did was not acceptable to - for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political opponent. And that includes, by the way, 37% of Republicans who say it's unacceptable, and 16% of Republicans in addition to that are unsure. So you basically have a majority of Republicans who are saying it's either unacceptable or they don't really want to criticize the president, but they're not willing to say that it's an acceptable thing to do.
KELLY: So what's the takeaway? What should we make of these numbers, particularly now that we are in this next phase of open hearings?
MONTANARO: Well, I think one of the big things is that Democratic leaders were really nervous about this whole process, right? They were very cautious. They thought there'd be a backlash about impeachment. So far, that hasn't borne out. In fact, our poll shows that people who are paying the closest attention are more likely to support the inquiry. So in that way, Democrats feel like if they can continue to simply present the facts in a sober, mostly dispassionate way, they might be able to win over that slim number of people who are persuadable.
KELLY: Although the very first headline I mentioned from the poll was that everybody says they've already made up their minds, and no matter what happens in this hearing, they're not going to change themselves.
MONTANARO: It's certainly something. Two-thirds of Americans told us they can't even imagine that anything comes out in this process that would change their mind one way or another. There are 30% that say that they are somewhat swayable, but that's it. And, you know, that is probably less than that for those who are truly movable.
KELLY: NPR's Domenico Montanaro - he's our senior political editor and correspondent. Thank you.
MONTANARO: You're welcome.
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