DEMOCRATS IN America’s House of Representatives issued two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on December 10th. On one count, the members allege, Mr Trump abused his power by asking the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to open an investigation that would damage Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner. The second stipulates that he obstructed Congress by resisting subpoenas for congressional testimony and demands for documents, among other acts. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the judiciary committee, said that America’s founders intended impeachment to be used as a check against the president and to “protect against threats to our democratic institutions”. The full House could vote on the articles as early as next week.
Democrats in the House will probably impeach the president, but he will not be removed from office unless they can also convince some of Mr Trump’s supporters in the Senate—which must vote by a two-thirds majority to remove a president—to join them. Without a significant shift in public opinion, that looks unlikely.
Most voters have decided their opinions based on their partisanship. A survey conducted between December 1st and December 3rd on behalf of The Economist by YouGov, a polling firm, found that 85% of Americans who approve of Mr Trump’s job performance want him to stay in office, whereas 82% of his detractors support the Democrats’ efforts to impeach him. Any hopes the Democrats had of shifting public opinion through their Congressional impeachment process have been disappointed: they may have convinced even more Democrats of the case for impeaching the president, but left most Republicans unmoved.
Members of the public who have watched at least part of the hearings on television have mostly decided in favour of impeachment. The president’s supporters have mostly tuned them out. Of Americans who told YouGov they were watching the House’s impeachment hearings, 70% also said they disapproved of Mr Trump’s job performance; only 29% were allied with the president. There was a similar disparity on the question of the impeachment itself: 70% of hearings-watchers wanted to give him the boot, whereas 57% of those who tuned out wanted him to stay.
The level of interest in impeachment hearings today contrasts with the attention paid to the Watergate hearings. Then, the proceedings of the Senate Watergate Committee were covered live on television around the clock. According to a Gallup poll, 71% of Americans said they watched at least some of the coverage. YouGov’s poll suggests that only 35% of Americans have watched any of the hearings related to Mr Trump’s impeachment inquiry. A similar number admitted that they were not interested at all in the proceedings.