WASHINGTON – Even as support for his impeachment grows, President Donald Trump continues to be backed by a seemingly unshakable core of supporters who deny he has done anything wrong and agree he is the target of a political "lynching," a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds.
Americans are split in the survey about whether Trump should be convicted by the Senate in an impeachment trial and removed from office: 46% in favor and 47% against. Having close to half of registered voters support his eviction from the White House is politically perilous territory for any president, of course.
Despite damaging new testimony, however, 30% to 40% of those surveyed remain solidly on Trump’s side. That is a significant asset for the president as the House of Representatives prepares to vote Thursday to affirm the formal impeachment investigation.
“Let’s look at the economy, wages, unemployment, foreign affairs, tariffs and other things like that,” said Steven Kay, 67, of Riverside County, California, a retiree and a Republican who was among those surveyed. “His rhetoric might be a little much, but he is making good policy.”
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William Skelskey, 84, a Republican and retired real estate agent from Mission Viejo, California, blamed Democrats' "negativity" for Trump's troubles and called him "one of the top three presidents since Washington and Reagan."
The president’s solid core of supporters don’t comprise a majority of the electorate, but they do provide a political foundation that energizes him – witness his speeches that stretch an hour and longer at raucous rallies – and helps limit defections from other GOP officials.
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Controversy over Ukraine call
In the poll, nearly four in 10 say his phone call pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate possible interference in the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden is itself an impeachable offense. But another 31% say there was nothing wrong with the conversation, echoing Trump’s insistence that it was "perfect." Thirty-seven percent say the House should stop investigating the president and his administration entirely.
“It seems like the inquiry is a tremendous waste of time and money,” said George Roma, 55, a small-business owner from central Florida and a Republican. “I’m baffled why they continue to do this for three years.”
In contrast, some of Trump’s critics are baffled why he hasn’t been impeached already.
"He clearly violated the conduct that the president should hold in terms of using his power to increase his political and personal gain," said Kate Pritchard, 63, a Democrat and retired teacher from Durango, Colorado. She said Congress was "doing a good job with the inquiry and following the rules."
The telephone poll of 1,000 registered voters Oct. 23-26 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Last week, even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the rare step of distancing himself from a tweet by Trump that likened his impeachment to “a lynching.”
In the poll, though, 40% say they agree with the racially charged tweet; 54% disagree. The language that caused wide consternation was seen by some supporters as just another sign of Trump's willingness to disrupt the status quo, a quality they embrace. "That's why I voted for Trump," Roma said. "I'm trying to get away from the same-old, same-old Washington."
Who are those who endorse the president's analogy?
Unsurprisingly, they are overwhelmingly Republican. Conservatives by more than 2-1 agree with the president’s assertion. These core backers are disproportionately white and male. His strongest support comes from those who don't have a four-year college degree. They also tend to be older. Those 18 to 34 years old overwhelmingly disagree with the tweet; those 65 and older narrowly agree with it.
That is the portrait of those the White House is counting on for the impeachment battle ahead and for the reelection fight to follow.
Trump’s strongest support comes from those who say Fox News is the TV network they trusted most; 78% of Fox viewers say they agree that Trump’s impeachment was like a “lynching.” In contrast, just 2% of those who trust MSNBC most and 10% of those who trust CNN most agree with the statement.
Removed from office?
On one issue, the president’s support sinks to just one in four, a sign of a potential vulnerability. Asked if the White House had an obligation to comply with subpoenas from the House committees demanding testimony and documents, 66% of those surveyed say yes, 26% say no. Those who think the White House should comply with congressional subpoenas include 35% of Republicans.
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“I do feel it is inappropriate for the executive branch to be stonewalling,” said Michael Dunford, 35, a Democrat from Solana Beach, California. “I don’t know if it is obstruction of justice, but it is obstruction.”
In the new USA TODAY/Suffolk survey, Americans of all stripes are inclined to think the House won’t end up voting to impeach Trump, 56%-37%. Most Democrats and most Republicans agree he’s not likely to be removed from office. Nearly three in four of all those surveyed, 73%, predict he won’t be.
“He should be impeached to discourage the awful behavior,” said Andre Mendes, 60, an engineer from Baltimore who supports the Green Party. "But Republicans would have to grow a spine in order for removal from office to occur.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Poll: Impeachment, Ukraine call have not shaken core Trump supporters