The impeachment trial is over. And with the exception of Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who voted to convict President Trump on one charge, the president has been acquitted in a party-line vote.
The final wave of our poll with Ipsos, where we followed up with the same group of respondents every couple of weeks using Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, found, however, that a majority (55 percent) of Americans still think that Trump committed an impeachable offense. And a majority (54 percent) disapprove of the Senate’s decision to acquit Trump.
The Senate trial just doesn’t seem to have done much to convince people of Trump’s innocence. Throughout the process, a majority of respondents in our survey consistently said that there was enough evidence to impeach Trump on both of the charges against him. Now that the process is over, Americans are about evenly split on whether there was enough evidence to remove Trump from office: 49 percent said there was enough evidence to remove him over his actions on Ukraine and half said there was enough evidence to remove him over his refusal to cooperate with Congress on impeachment. (That’s slightly lower than what we found in previous surveys, but the change wasn’t statistically significant.)
The Senate trial also didn’t do much to erode the deep party divide on whether Trump should be removed from office. Rank-and-file Republicans are overwhelmingly supportive of the vote to acquit Trump, while Democrats are opposed. The parties also remain split on whether there was enough evidence to remove Trump on either of the charges against him, and on whether the charges against him should have been dismissed.
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|Party||Approve of acquittal||Ukraine||Obstruction|
A majority thinks the Senate trial was unfair
There was one scrap of consensus regarding the Senate trial — majorities of both Republicans and Democrats think the senators were guided by their party in their vote, rather than being impartial jurors. A majority (51 percent) of Americans, including 42 percent of Republicans, think the Senate trial wasn’t fair. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Democrats (61 percent) are much likelier to think the trial was unfair, but views of the Senate trial are less polarized than views of the House impeachment inquiry — 77 percent of Republicans think that process was unfair, compared to only 20 percent of Democrats.
Americans largely disapprove of the Senate’s decision not to call new witnesses, which may be at least partly responsible for their sense that the trial was unfair. Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton announced in January that he was willing to appear at the trial if subpoenaed. It briefly seemed like Bolton’s testimony could change the trajectory of the trial, but the Senate ultimately opted not to introduce new evidence, with only two Republicans (Romney and Maine Sen. Susan Collins) voting with Democrats in support of calling new witnesses.
This wasn’t a popular move: A majority (58 percent) of Americans disapprove of the Senate’s decision to not call new witnesses in Trump’s Senate trial, while 39 percent approve. Our surveys did find that rank-and-file Republicans became more comfortable with the idea of a witness-free trial, with support for no new witnesses rising from 50 percent in late December to 69 percent in the most recent round of polling, conducted Feb. 5 though Feb. 9. Democrats, on the whole, became less supportive of the idea. Thirty-one percent said they didn’t support a trial without new witnesses in late December, but that number fell to 16 percent in our most recent survey.
More people say impeachment helps Trump win
For the first time, a president who has been impeached is embarking on a general election campaign.1 And Americans are increasingly convinced that impeachment will help Trump’s chances of winning reelection — 40 percent of Americans in our latest survey say it will help him, compared with 18 percent who say it will hurt his chances. (Another 40 percent say it won’t matter one way or the other.) This is a substantial change from mid-January, when just 32 percent said it would help his bid and 29 percent said it would hurt him. The biggest shift was among Democrats. Only 27 percent of Democrats now say impeachment will hurt Trump’s reelection chances — a 20-point drop from just a few weeks ago, when 47 percent said it would hurt him — while the share who said they thought it would help his chances roughly doubled, from 13 percent to 27 percent.
But regardless of how they feel about Trump’s reelection chances, very few Americans say the process has made them less motivated to vote in November. Nearly half (49 percent) say they are more motivated to vote in the presidential election because of impeachment, while 44 percent say it hasn’t made a difference and only 5 percent say it’s made them less motivated.
This is a rare question where there’s also little partisan difference — 52 percent of Democrats say they’re more motivated to vote in the 2020 presidential election, compared with 47 percent of Republicans. So while many Americans might be cynical about the fairness of the trial — and some Democrats may be newly anxious that impeachment will give Trump a boost as he campaigns for reelection — the process doesn’t seem to have made them lose confidence in the power of their vote.
President Andrew Johnson briefly sought the Democratic nomination after being impeached in 1868, but he was not a general election candidate.
Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight. @ameliatd
Laura Bronner is FiveThirtyEight’s quantitative editor. @laurabronner