Americans are split, 49%-46%, on whether they approve of Democrats' impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and independents at this point are not on board, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll finds.
But the pollsters warn that the new developments could change public opinion quickly, especially with 7 in 10 saying they are paying attention to the news.
"Democrats in the House have work to do to convince people of the usefulness of their case," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the survey of 864 Americans. The poll was conducted Wednesday night with live phone interviewers. That was one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry, but before a whistleblower complaint about the president's call with the Ukrainian leader was released to the public.
Miringoff added that while "independents still need to be convinced," the next few days are going to be crucial for both Democrats and Republicans, who will be making their cases about the validity of the inquiry.
"It's very important," Miringoff said, "because this is sort of like we are in the middle of a potential storm here."
Americans are also split on whether the impeachment inquiry is a serious matter (50%) or just politics (48%) and whether it's worth going through with if the Senate doesn't convict and Trump gets to stay in office. By a 2-point margin, 49%-47%, they say it's not worth it.
Important for Democrats, half of independents disapprove (50%) of the impeachment inquiry and don't think it's worth it if the Senate doesn't convict (52%). People who live in the suburbs, whom Democrats relied on for support in the 2018 midterms to take back the House, are largely split on each of those questions.
On the impeachment inquiry, 48% of those living in the suburbs approve, while 49% disapprove. And on whether it's worth it, they divide evenly, 49%-49%.
Familiar fissures also emerge by party, gender, education and place. Democrats; women, especially college-educated women; and people who live in big cities are in favor of the impeachment inquiry. Republicans, people who live in rural areas, and men largely are not.
Overall, 71% say they have been paying very close or fairly close attention to the news about the House impeachment inquiry into Trump. More Republicans (80%) said they've at least followed the news on this fairly closely than Democrats (70%) or independents (64%).
But overwhelmingly, people want to hear more, with three-quarters of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, saying the whistleblower should testify before Congress.
A majority also think there needs to be investigation into the Ukraine call and the president asking about the Bidens, with 54% of voters calling it a very serious matter.
This is going to be a long fight between the two parties, waging a messaging war to try to win over persuadable voters. And right now, independents are saying they don't approve of the job Trump is doing (52%), but they disapprove of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi more (62%).
What's more, the president's base is more behind him than Pelosi's is behind her — 90% of Republicans approve of Trump's job, as opposed to 74% of Democrats saying the same about Pelosi.
Trump's overall approval rating is about where it's been — 44%, but Pelosi comes off worse at 39%.
Viewed worst of all of the leaders in Washington, however, is Mitch McConnell. Just 32% approve of the job he is doing.
So it's pretty clear whose party the GOP is.
Methodology: The poll of 864 Americans was conducted with live telephone callers the night of Sept. 25. The margin of error for the overall sample is 4.6 percentage points. Party affiliation results reflect the 745 respondents who identified as registered voters, and the margin of error is 5 percentage points
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Our latest NPR/PBS/Marist poll finds that Americans are paying attention as we learn more about President Trump's call with his Ukrainian counterpart. But they're divided on the question of whether or not the impeachment inquiry is warranted. Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor and joins us now.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Let's start with what the numbers tell us about whether Americans approve of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. What's the result?
MONTANARO: Well, Americans are split overall, 49-46, on whether they approve of Democrats starting this impeachment inquiry. We should be careful, though, because this poll was conducted over one night - last night. And that was before this morning's revelation of that whistleblower complaint being released.
But here's what we know so far, and it's instructive for how the messaging war is going to play out. Independents are not onboard with this at this point. Half of them in the poll say they disapprove, and that's a key group that's trended with Democrats on almost everything in the Trump era but just not impeachment. People who live in the suburbs, they're also not quite convinced. They're split. And Democrats have work to do to convince both of those key groups. Remember suburban voters helped Democrats over the line in 2018 to take back the House.
The poll also found big splits that are pretty familiar by now with - by gender, party and place. Women, especially women with college degrees, said they're supportive of beginning this process. Men and people who live in rural areas - largely not.
Overall, though, Americans want to hear more. Three-quarters said they want to hear the whistleblower testify before Congress, and a majority thinks that there needs to be more investigation into that phone call President Trump had with the president of Ukraine.
SHAPIRO: This story has totally consumed official Washington over the last week. Beyond D.C., are people paying attention?
MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, what the pollsters found here was that 7 in 10, in fact, are saying that they are paying attention to this story. But so far, it's a higher percentage of Republicans, actually, who've been tuning in - 80%, compared to 70% of Democrats, just 64% of independents. And again, that messaging is going to be so crucial when it comes to independents because they're such a key group for people who could be persuaded here.
SHAPIRO: Domenico, this story is moving so fast. We record an interview earlier in the day, and it's obsolete by the time we're on the air...
MONTANARO: I know.
SHAPIRO: ...In the afternoon. So how reliable are these poll numbers actually?
MONTANARO: Well, poll numbers can always change. And we should note that this poll - we should, you know, always say - is a snapshot of what people thought. And this was after the day of the details of the phone call Trump had with the president of Ukraine, when that was released. This was a one-night poll, so it was conducted before that whistleblower complaint came out, like we said earlier.
So we're going to have to see what happens in the coming days. A lot can and probably will change. Our pollsters warn that the next 48 to 72 hours are going to be crucial because, in the words of one of our pollsters, right now it looks like we're in the middle of a political storm here, and opinions are very fluid.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's senior political editor Domenico Montanaro.
MONTANARO: You're welcome.
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