A majority of Pennsylvanians say they endorse the decision by House Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, according to a new Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday.
The same poll clearly shows a partisan divide, with Democrats in favor of impeachment and Republicans opposed to it.
The findings mirror national polls that show public opinion is shifting against Trump and in favor of impeachment proceedings in recent weeks as information has been leaked by Democrats about his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his claims of corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival in next year's election.
The poll finds that, by a margin of 57% to 42%, registered Pennsylvania voters say the House was correct to open the inquiry. The top reason for supporting the inquiry is the belief that Trump broke the law. And the top reason for opposing the inquiry is the belief that it is a partisan witch hunt.
Trump has denied the allegations against him and a transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president shows no evidence of any pressure placed on Ukraine to pursue an investigation of Biden.
The preferences of the respondents — 226 Democrats, 188 Republicans and 68 independents — highlight stark partisan divisions, with more than 8 in 10 Democrats endorsing the inquiry and about 8 in 10 Republicans opposing it. Among the critical independent voting group, support for the inquiry is 61%.
In addition to oversampling Democrats, the poll has a margin of error is 6.1 percentage points.
G. Terry Madonna, director of the poll, said the findings are fascinating in how they reflect the partisan split that seems to dominate every issue in Washington.
"It amazes me how divided people are on the impeachment question," he said.
Madonna pointed out that, despite how far apart people are on the impeachment proceedings, only 1 in 5 registered voters in the state believes it is acceptable for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent. Although, he added, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe it is acceptable.
"It is clear that most conservatives do not believe that what Trump did rises to that level," he said.
Madonna said he believes Republican congressional leaders will be focusing on how that support holds up as the inquiry moves forward in the House — particularly in Pennsylvania since it is one of the most important swing states in the nation.
In the 2016 presidential election, Trump received 44,292 more votes than Hillary Clinton in the Keystone State. The victory — a difference of less than 1 percentage point — represented a 350,000-ballot swing for Republicans in a state where Democrats still hold a sizeable registration edge.
But when it comes to how Pennsylvanians think Trump is performing as president, the majority offer a harsh verdict. Asked how Trump is handling his position as president, about 1 in 3 say he is doing an excellent or good job while 54% say he is doing a poor job.
Rating Trump's challengers
In the race for the nomination to unseat Trump, the poll found Biden is still the favorite for president among registered Democratic voters in Pennsylvania.
The former vice president, who often touts his deep family roots in the Keystone State, is the leading choice of 30% of respondents when asked which Democratic candidate they would select if the 2020 presidential primary were being held now.
The survey of 226 registered Democratic voters marks the second time the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall has provided a snapshot of where the race for the nomination stands.
The poll found Biden maintaining his status as the front-runner in the contest with a 12-point lead over Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose popularity in Pennsylvania has dropped from 21% in July to 18% in October. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg finished out the top four spots. Sanders is in third place with 12% support while Buttigieg is fourth, with 8% support.
Among registered Democrats, health care (22%) is the top issue they are considering in selecting a presidential candidate and that honesty, leadership and integrity are the qualities they most want in a candidate.
Madonna said the findings are pretty consistent with what he found this summer. And he cautioned people about reading too much into the results as they stand now.
"We have months and months to go before the April primary here," he said. "Biden has a long history in Pennsylvania, and many Democrats are still waiting to see how the race takes shape as candidates begin to drop out."
The survey was conducted between Oct. 21 and Sunday. The margin of error is 6.1 percentage points.