As Congress moves forward with an impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, public opinion has changed dramatically within two weeks. In a new Washington Post poll out on Tuesday, a majority of respondents think that Trump should be subject to an impeachment inquiry.
According to the new poll, 58 percent of respondents support the House Democrats opening an impeachment inquiry against the president—a big shift of 21 points from the same poll last July—and 60 percent feel that Trump "does not uphold adequate standards for ethics in government." Among independents, 57 percent support the inquiry and 49 percent think Trump should be removed from office. Meanwhile, three out of ten Republicans also support the inquiry, and 18 percent say they&aposre in favor of Congress voting for Trump&aposs removal.
Trump&aposs job-approval ratings have been holding fairly steady. Over the past year, polling by Monmouth University has found his approval stayed pretty firmly in the 40 to 44 percent range, while disapproval has been between 49 and 54 percent. Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth polling, said earlier this month, "I’ve been saying this for a long time. Fundamental opinion about Donald Trump has been baked in from the very start of his presidency. Almost nothing he’s done has come as a surprise to the American public, which is why we see such little change in his job rating."
But attitudes about impeachment are not settled—and the momentum is pro-impeachment. In August, for example, a Monmouth poll found that 35 percent of respondents supported impeachment while 59 percent didn&apost. That was shortly after the Mueller Report came out, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she was still opposed to opening an impeachment inquiry, despite the special counsel essentially laying a path for Democrats to do so. Pelosi said at the time, "My position has always been: Whatever decision we make in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts."
The political landscape has shifted considerably since then. When Mueller testified before Congress, fewer than 100 House Democrats supported impeachment—well below the threshold of a 218 majority needed to move forward. Today, 225 of 235 Democrats support the inquiry. After a whistleblower came forward saying that Trump pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to get dirt on Joe Biden while withholding aid, seven moderate "national security" Democrats in vulnerable districts came out in support of impeachment. And then Pelosi announced she would support the inquiry moving forward. Following the politicians, voter attitudes have also changed since July in several polls. Strategist Tom Davis, who formerly ran the Republican Party&aposs House campaign arm, told CNBC, "If you’re the president, you have to take that seriously. What moves this ultimately is public opinion. These members like their jobs."
The change in public opinion isn&apost entirely surprising. In the early 1970s, a clear majority of Americans only came to support Nixon&aposs impeachment after the House Judiciary Committee recommended that he be removed from office. Until then, public sentiment, according to the Pew Research Center, was extremely slow to shift in favor of impeachment, even as Nixon&aposs approval rating steadily declined. By the time Nixon resigned, rather than facing impeachment, 57 percent of the country thought he should be removed from office, and his approval rating hit a floor at 24 percent.
Some political pundits, such as Bret Stephens of the New York Times opinion section, have claimed Pelosi made a political mistake because public opinion polls hadn&apost (at the time) moved, while others, like his colleague Ross Douthat, have suggested that Trump might welcome impeachment as a way to fire up his base. But neither of those predictions seems to be bearing out. In addition to these massive shifts in public opinion, according to Axios, in private Trump seems to be quite worried about an inquiry, telling aides that impeachment is a "bad thing to have on your résumé."
Originally Appeared on GQ