Wednesday, December 18, 2019


It's Impeachment Day, but I'm encountering some gloom among Trump critics. There's concern about poll numbers like this:
President Trump’s job approval rating has ticked up 6 percentage points since the Democrats' impeachment inquiry began, according to a new survey.

The Gallup poll released early Wednesday found Trump’s approval rating at 45 percent, up from 39 percent when the inquiry was launched in the fall. The new findings mark the third-consecutive increase in Trump's approval rating, Gallup noted.
Yes, but another way of putting that is that Trump's approval rating is up a mere 2 points since September, or a mere 1 point since July:

Remember, Trump's numbers at the time the Ukraine investigation was launched weren't low only because of Ukraine. He'd also abruptly pulled troops out of northern Syria, for which he was widely criticized.

But even if you give Trump credit for an impeachment bounce, it's paltry compared to the 10-point bounces Bill Clinton got just after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, and just after article of impeachment were approved. Here are the numbers from Pew:

In Gallup's numbers, there are similar spikes (note the 69 and 73):

But notice what happens afterward: In both polls, Clinton's numbers drift down. Sure, they're still quite high -- unlike Trump, Clinton was seen as a good president. But Clinton's job approval peaked with the passage of impeachment articles.

And then his party lost the next election.

Some of you will say that Al Gore didn't lose in 2000. But even though Gore was Clinton's VP, and the country was widely perceived to be going through a period of peace and prosperity, George W. Bush -- who sold himself as a quiet-living man who'd found God and wouldn't sin in the White House, while "restoring honor and dignity" there -- was able to keep the election close enough that the Supreme Court could push him over the top.)

Remember that Democrats exceeded expectations in the 1998 midterms, when impeachment was imminent, but they didn't have a huge victory -- they gained only 5 seats in the House and none in the Senate.

Then after Clinton's impeachment and acquittal, there was a perception in America that the president had gotten away with something. It didn't show up in his job approval ratings, but personal approval of the president was significantly lower (and kept dropping).

There's a good chance that something similar will happen after Trump is acquitted -- many Americans will see him (accurately) as someone who's gotten away with something.

So he should enjoy his tiny poll spike now. It may not last.

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