Five takeaways on Texans’ views of the impeachment of Donald Trump from the October 2019 UT/Texas Tribune Poll

The October 2019 University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll included a battery of questions exploring Texas voters’ responses to the impeachment process now targeting Donald Trump, as well some of the key institutions and actors involved. The results find Texans polarized along partisan lines, as is much of the country, but also revealed some subtleties in the attitudes toward the major political story of the day. We make some early observations below, with more to come as events unfold and we comb through the data some more. 

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Don't know/No opinion6%

1. While partisanship continues to drive views of impeachment and removal of Trump from office, Republicans are slightly less unified than Democrats on the issue. Overall, the best predictor of a Texas voter’s view of impeachment continues to be party. While 46% of Texans say that “Congress is justified in conducting impeachment investigations into actions Donald Trump has taken while president,” 42% disagree. Among Democrats, 84% endorse the impeachment investigations, while 78% of Republicans feel that the investigations aren’t justified. Trump’s scorched earth response to the process creates some weakening of support among Republicans: 69 percent of Republicans approve of his response to the impeachment investigations – and 19% don’t express a view. By contrast, 80% of Democrats disapprove. That 11% gap is interesting given overall polarization. When it comes to the question of removing the president, however, any signs of Republican doubts disappear. Among Republicans, 79% don’t believe the president’s actions justify removal, the same share of Democrats who believe his actions do justify removal. Texans overall are split, with 43% saying that the president’s actions while in office “justify his removal...before the end of his term,” and 44% saying that it hasn’t.

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Don't know/No opinion4%11%5%

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Approve strongly6%18%45%
Approve somewhat4%15%23%
Neither approve nor disapprove5%22%11%
Disapprove somewhat7%6%7%
Disapprove strongly73%37%6%
Don't know6%1%8%

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Don't know/No opinion5%

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Don't know/No opinion4%9%4%

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Don't know/No opinion3%10%4%

2. Signs of Republican dissent from the GOP’s seeming consensus opposing impeachment are most clearly evident among conservative of Republicans. One in five voters who identify as conservative (20%) said that Congressional impeachment investigations are justified with an almost equal share (18%) saying that Trump’s actions justify his removal from office based on what we currently know. And while Republican job approval of the president remains robust and unchanged from the June UT/TT poll (89% approve, 7% disapprove), the share of conservatives registering disapproval increased by 8 points from 11% to 19% (a similar share to those in favor of the impeachment investigations and potentially impeachment). For those looking for signs of cracks in the foundation of Trump’s support, these are small but noticeable ones. Self-identified conservatives make up 81% of the Republicans polled.

3. Political independents, often a mercurial lot, are closely divided on the impeachment issue, but less decisive in their judgements than partisans. Among true independents, a larger share relative to partisans are seemingly undecided on most aspects of Trump’s impeachment travail. We’ll get to a larger explication of this facet of public opinion and it’s possible impacts on 2020, but the usually reliably conservative-leaning Texas independents are the only Texans who, as a group, seem divided on impeachment. While 42% of independents support the investigations, compared to 32% who do not, and 22% either unsure or with no opinion, they are more split as a group on the question of impeachment at the moment, with 34% in favor, 33% opposed, and 33% either unsure or with no opinion. Independents as we define them are those Texas voters who identify with neither major party when asked, and then, when asked subsequently if they lean towards either of the two major parties, still affirm that they lean towards neither. This group makes up roughly 10% of voters, and in the case of the June UT/TT poll, 11% of the sample.

Attitudes Towards Impeachment among Texas Voters (October 2019)
  Overall Republicans Democrats Independents
Congress is justified in conducting impeachment investigations into actions Donald Trump has taken while president 46% 13% 84% 46%
Approval of the way Republicans in Congress have handled the impeachment investigations 25% 38% 13% 22%
Approval of the way Democrats in Congress have handled the impeachment investigations 40% 9% 77% 19%
Approval of the way President Trump is responding to the impeachment investigations 39% 68% 10% 33%
Donald Trump has taken actions while president that justify his removal from office before the end of his term 43% 12% 79% 34%

4. The Constitutional vehicle for this effort to hold Trump accountable for possible abuses of power is Congress, and, as a body, they remain comparatively and absolutely unpopular with Texas voters. Overall congressional job approval sits at 21%, with 58% disapproving of the legislative branch. On their respective handling of the impeachment investigations, 25% of Texas voters approve of Republican efforts, 40% of Democratic efforts. These relatively lopsided results are due to Republican attitudes likely complicating the response of GOP congresspersons. While 77% of Democrats approve of Democratic efforts in Congress and 70% disapprove of Republican efforts, Republican condemnation of Democrats in Congress (81%) is tempered in its political effectiveness by nearly evenly-divided evaluations of the Republican congressional delegation. Only 38% of the GOP’s own partisans express approval of how Republicans in Congress are handling impeachment, with 33% expressing disapproval. This doesn’t even reach the level of faint praise compared to Republican voters’ evaluations of the president’s response to the impeachment investigation (68% approving, 13% disapproving). So don’t be surprised if the combative tone taken by Trump’s most vocal defenders in Congress is echoed by more and more Republicans on the ballot in 2020, at least in the short-run. It may be a cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true: the bully pulpit is one of the major amplifiers of presidential power, and Trump has cranked it up to eleven. Expect GOP members to reach for their dials, too, rather than get kicked out of the band.

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Approve strongly39%4%5%
Approve somewhat38%15%4%
Neither approve nor disapprove10%31%3%
Disapprove somewhat5%13%6%
Disapprove strongly2%35%75%
Don't know5%3%6%

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Approve strongly7%7%11%
Approve somewhat6%15%27%
Neither approve nor disapprove11%36%17%
Disapprove somewhat20%19%21%
Disapprove strongly50%20%13%
Don't know6%4%11%

5. Mitch and Nancy. While all eyes have been on the U.S. House and the tactical decision of its chosen leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the likely trial in the U.S. Senate will put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at center stage, something the Senate Majority leader is usually tactically inclined to avoid unless necessary – he picks his spots. These survey results suggest that the efforts of Republican leaders to make Pelosi the face of the Democratic Party for Republicans has largely worked, with 82% of Republicans disapproving of her job performance (70% of Democrats approve). McConnell’s numbers are more complicated, as he has been targeted less by Democrats who have President Trump to focus their partisans' attention on. Nonetheless, 63% of Democrats disapprove of McConnell’s job performance, while among Republicans 43% approve, 23% disapprove, and the remainder either don’t know, or neither approve nor disapprove. Overall, 85% expressed a positive or negative view of Pelosi, with 60% expressing strong approval (16%) or strong disapproval (44%). A smaller share, 67%, expressed a view of McConnell, with only 40% expressing strong approval (8%) or strong disapproval (32%).   Watching whether and how attitudes towards both leaders move will provide some indication of public reaction to how both bodies of congress are handling the impeachment process. This is also a baseline for assessing a very likely future path in national politics in which McConnell spearheads the Senate's acquittal of Trump, and Democrats make him central to a 2020 campaign that seeks to brand Republicans as colluding with Trump in his abuse of power.

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Approve strongly32%12%2%
Approve somewhat38%2%7%
Neither approve nor disapprove11%19%5%
Disapprove somewhat5%7%5%
Disapprove strongly6%52%77%
Don't know9%9%4%

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Approve strongly4%5%12%
Approve somewhat4%15%32%
Neither approve nor disapprove16%27%23%
Disapprove somewhat9%7%10%
Disapprove strongly54%35%13%
Don't know12%12%10%


Ross Ramsey wrote about the impeachment battery in our partner in the poll, The Texas Tribune.