Gallup has been running this congressional approval poll of the two parties since 1999. For most of that time Democrats have had a slightly higher approval rate. The last time the parties were tied was nine years ago. But it appears that the response to impeachment has been positive for Republicans.
More Americans approve of the job congressional Republicans are doing than of congressional Democrats’ performance — 40% vs. 35%. The rating for Republicans in Congress has risen six percentage points since late October, before the impeachment of President Donald Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives. Over the same period, congressional Democrats’ approval rating has edged down three points and disapproval has climbed five points, from 57% to 62%…
Republicans’ approval of congressional Republicans has jumped 13 points to 76% since October, but Democrats’ 65% approval of congressional Democrats is virtually unchanged from October.
Gallup points out that this rise in GOP numbers matches with a similar bump in Trump’s approval. He had his personal best approval of 49% in January and February. Sen. Mitch McConnell is also benefiting from the same post-impeachment bump. Like Trump, he is now at his highest approval ever, a couple of points above Chuck Schumer:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s image has also improved after impeachment. McConnell’s favorability rating has increased by six points since October to 33% now, because of a 15-point jump to 62% among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
So what impeachment managed to do was solidify Republican support for the party as a whole one year before an election. Given that the outcome was a foregone conclusion, that doesn’t seem particularly smart. In fact, some Republicans predicted precisely this outcome. Here’s CNBC from last December:
“It’s fairly obvious that this will be done along party lines, and if anything, if Democrats meant to diminish the strength of the president, I think the opposite is probably going to happen,” the former White House aide to President George H.W. Bush said on “The Exchange.”…
“I think at the end of the day, this is probably not going to hurt the president and will probably strengthen him in his bid to run for re-election,” Watkins said.
But not everyone saw it coming. This Washington Post analysis piece from last December suggested Trump wouldn’t get a political boost:
I am not so sure that impeachment of Trump by the House followed by acquittal in the Senate (the likeliest scenario now) means Trump gets a big political boost going into his reelection.
While President Bill Clinton was popular during his impeachment and benefited from a groundswell of sympathy afterward, Trump is not a particularly popular president, with approval ratings hovering in the 40s.
Reuters offered a similar outlook at the time, suggesting there was no indication Trump would get a bump from impeachment.
It’s fair to say that the bump for Trump hasn’t been as significant as it was for Clinton, who came out of impeachment with a 65% approval rating from Gallup. But the difference doesn’t surprise me. Clinton had the entire media on his side in a time before social media and blogs existed. By the time impeachment was over, they had painted him as a victim and Ken Starr as a pervert. None of that looks too good in retrospect, especially in light of the #MeToo movement, but it definitely benefited Clinton at the time.
Donald Trump has had a very different experience with the media, so his 49% approval is pretty good under the circumstances.