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Jonathan Bernstein

What Are Impeachment Polls Really Telling Us?

Democratic voters are following their party’s lead in support for impeaching Trump. But that doesn’t mean they are sheep. 

Show some respect.

Show some respect.

Photographer: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP/Getty Images

What can the rapid increase in popular support for impeaching President Donald Trump tell us about how public opinion works? It wasn’t the shock of the Ukraine story that led a sizable chunk of voters to change or make up their minds. The surge happened after the scandal prompted House Democrats to unite around a more formal impeachment inquiry.

As Perry Bacon Jr. at FiveThirtyEight points out, the takeaway is completely consistent with one of the most important research findings about public opinion: People tend to follow highly visible party leaders. That’s why I was able to correctly predict the jump in support.