Impeachment and what statistics still (don't) tell us

Trump’s impeachment saga has lasted for a few months now, and at this point it seems very clear to us that it will have no negative consequences for his re-election chances - in fact it is very possible that the whole process ends up helping him.

Let’s look at a few data points first.

Support For/Against Trump Impeachment:

Source: 538

While this chart looks a bit damning at first for Trump, there are a few things to note about it. More people in those polls support the impeachment process than oppose it. But they still don’t constitute an absolute majority.

Also, there hasn’t been a whole lot of movement in public opinion (which is also visible in Trump’s steady approval ratings, too) ever since Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry. This is something Democrats most likely hoped for.

Most importantly: Overall support for or against impeachment matters much less than looking at the support for/against “by party” registration (Democrat, Republican or Independent). We’ll do in the next chart:

Source: 538

There are three things of note here:

Overall, all of the charts are remarkably steady, almost as if nothing has happened. The impeachment proceedings don’t appear to be swaying any section of the public; not just the public as a whole. Trump can live with a stalemate that looks like this especially well, unlike the Democrats who want his impeachment.

The majority of independents don’t want an impeachment. They are the middle ground that needs to be won over, yet they are a bit more favorable towards Trump. This is probably a huge hint for the election itself as well.

Republicans are more united on impeachment than the Democrats are. A sizable portion of the Democrats – among them Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard – don’t want impeachment. Instead, they prefer to defeat Trump at the ballot box. In this context it’s also notable that there were a few Democrat votes that didn’t support Trump’s impeachment in the House, but there were no dissenting Republican votes.

At the very least the goal must have been to damage Trump’s chances in 2020. Yet, based on this data, we think it’s fair to conclude that the impeachment isn’t having the desired effect. What we are seeing is very different from Nixon’s Watergate scandal, for example, which ended up destroying Nixon’shis support among Republicans, leading to his resignation.

The betting markets elaborate on this story: If public opinion isn’t swayed by impeachment, that must be good for Trump’s odds in the 2020 election. And like clockwork his implied probability of winning (based on Betfair’s betting odds) has gone up considerably during December, the high point of his supposed impeachment crisis:

Source: Betfair

So, where does all of this leave us going into 2020?

Politically Trump’s impeachment always was very likely to fail because of the overwhelming Republican majority in the Senate. So, the goal must have been to damage Trump going into the 2020 election year, but this seems to be backfiring spectacularly. The impeachment process has failed to impress the American public, especially where it matters most: among the Independents.

Meanwhile the impeachment proceedings have fired up Trump’s base, which is visible in the record number of small donations.

Finally, we think it’s likely that the whole impeachment scenario doesn’t leave a good impression with undecided voters. Three years into Trump’s Presidency, Democrats might appear to not have accepted their 2016 loss and some might say that they are trying to overturn it by any means necessary. We predict this isn’t going to play well with voters that are still on the fence come election day.

See also: