Why Is Support for Impeachment Falling?

Morgan Marietta Ph.D.

Dueling fact perceptions about Ukraine.

Recent polling shows a decline in support for impeachment following the public hearings in the House of Representatives. What is going on? How can support for impeachment fall after the evidence of wrongdoing has just been presented?

Decline in Support

According to a CNN poll conducted 12-15 December, support for impeachment now stands at 45% nationally, down from 50% in November. Opposition has risen from 43% to 47%.

In the crucial 2020 swing states the story is more dramatic: According to a Washington Post average of polls in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, 51 percent of voters oppose impeachment while only 44% favor it. The aggregation of legitimate polls illustrated at RealClearPolitics switched for the first time to opposing impeachment (47.4% to 46.7%).

Among Independents, the RCP average is -6% against impeachment. The most shocking poll may be from Quinnipiac from 11-15 December. The poll has impeachment support at 45%, with 51% opposed. But among Independents, the gap is 36% in favor to 58% opposed—a 22% gap against impeachment among Independents.

Why?

In a book of poetry from 1967, Richard Wilbur wrote, “Try to remember this: what you project is what you will perceive; what you perceive with any passion, be it love or terror, may take on whims and powers of its own.”

The psychology of perception has a bias at its core: We tend to project our priors onto our perceptions; we project our group’s beliefs onto our own; we project our preferred values onto our perceived facts. How do people project their values and social connections onto their perceptions? By framing their questions to match what they want to be observe.

Our personal values (what we want to be important), group identities (what we want other people to think of us), and partisan attachments (who we want to win) lead us to embrace some questions and downplay others.

For example, about the evidence and testimony presented in the hearings we could ask:

  • A) Is this requesting interference in US elections? Or …
  • B) Is this asking for information on possible corruption that American voters would want to know about?

The two questions can lead to different conclusions about whether the conduct was an impeachable offense. We are more likely to ask the first question if we already distrust the president; if we already think he orchestrated foreign interference in 2016; or if we already want him to lose in 2020. We are more likely to ask the second question if we have the opposite priors. But it is the priors framing the questions, which shift the perceptions.

“Why did he shoot him?”

At a CNN panel of women voters in early November, Alisyn Camerota asked, “If he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, would you vote for him?” The first response was, “You’d have to know why he shot him.”

Just as another Trump supporter in the panel asked, “Why did he shoot him?” they might equally ask, “Why did Trump want the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden?” If you want to see a reason, one is there: Biden’s son accepted a large amount of money to sit on a board of a Ukrainian gas company known to be corrupt, while the Vice President was leading the administration’s anti-corruption initiative regarding Ukraine. While no overt corruption by Joe Biden has been proven, the allegation remains that the company paid for the Biden name to demonstrate powerful American connections. article continues after advertisement

The impeachment hearings avoided discussing that allegation, which allows Trump supporters to continue to perceive it as crucial while also perceiving the proceedings as unfair.

This is just one example of how framing the crucial question determines the final perception.

Depending on the questions we ask, our perceptions of facts will differ sharply. For partisans this is difficult to understand, because the most important question seems obvious to them and employing a different question seems nonsensical. Through a partisan lens the evidence presented in the hearings is crystal clear. But it is crystal only in the sense that when looked at from different perspectives it reflects light differently.

2 thoughts on “Why Is Support for Impeachment Falling?

  • December 19, 2019 at 10:11 am
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    Thank you for your clear description of the situation. At the beginning of this process (long before the President sent a letter to the Ukraine) there were allegations of impropriety. The adage, “Where there is smoke, there is fire” prevailed. But after numerous accusations fell to the wayside, the story of the boy who cried “wolf” too often became the norm. Had Democrats used the 2018 election to advance meaningful legislation, they would have had a very strong position going into the 2020 election cycle. Instead, they have fixated on impeachment, a cause in search of a crime (Ukrainian aid has replace Russian collusion in a the moving target of impeachable offenses). All Americans, regardless of party, are paying the price of this inability to move beyond the 2016 election outcome.

    Reply
  • December 19, 2019 at 1:13 pm
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    Dec 19, 2019
    Even if you went to the worst school in the USA, the obvious visible actions and reactions of the Democrats is a well orchestrated hollywood movie portrayal of “Sinners Gone Wild”. The script illustrates multitudes of wicked sorcerers and witches out to Beguile Deceive and cast more spells upon the public with their sinister witchcraft conduct and slanders.
    Stories embellished with dramatic parody’s and illusions.
    Stories and scripts conspired with the hope to manufacture illusions, delusions and confusions to incite hate anger & hostility to naive Liberal voter bases.
    Over and over they invented a constant repetition of false fake slanders.
    Daily they created mountains of fake exaggerated fabrications extracted from construed bogus opinions of coerced story tellers and psycho-babblers.
    The goal of all of it was to flood the days with repeat falsehoods and discernable corrupt lying and hollywood theatrics.
    Why? They are scared! Scared of the whole truth of what they have been doing to America and its people and the wealth they have been taking like a crew of Pirates and Buccaneer’s for decades as they deceived the very people they alleged to help.
    The very things they implied and accused Trump of, they are the real true Guilty and they have swindled and snookered the people here and in foreign countries as they like Mafia mobsters used threats and intimidation and collusion to haul off booty money into multiple billions.
    As the swamp and the sewer is exposed, the wicked alligators are going insane.
    Liberals are openly in evil rage with hearts of hate & slander.
    Liberals all afraid their sins & transgressions will be exposed with a trail of lies.
    Volcano’s of Liberal collusion, obvious and filled with vivid intents to daily deceive Americas misguided people from the authentic whole truth.
    Why are Liberals and others so ready to defend the lies and guile & scams and schemes of the Democrats, simply because so many people have become accessories to the many scams scheme crimes, all received fraudulent money or through programs devised by sinful Democrats, all together hustled the people to continue to help them rob all the other peoples pockets.
    Decades of public addiction to the Democrat Liberals.
    Decades of sinful capitulations that was buying their souls & locking them in the eternal hellish chains of servitude because of their godless virtues.
    Democrat liberals agendas, blind people from the true God and turn you over to the evils of Satan to spend eternity with him on his firery plantation.
    Americas Education system is a training prison that is mis-educating children to deny God, deny Christ, deny truth, and poisoned them to take the Image and likeness of God who created all, and abort them and then eventually convince you to commit suicide by living lives of self destruction because for decades the evil school curriculum and mind programming has bewitched many.
    Few make it off the “mind plantation” they have instilled.
    They do not worship or follow the true God and so, your eternity is in Danger.

    SOME ARE WAKING UP ! WILL YOU WAKE UP AND SEE GODS LIGHT, JESUS?
    ???
    THE REASON FOR THE SEASON? WILL YOU WORSHIP HIM AND SEEK TO FIND HIM AND WORSHIP THE “KING OF KINGS” !
    HE HAS COME TO BRING THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE !
    DENY SELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS AND FOLLOW HIM !
    THE REASON FOR THE SEASON !

    or HAS THE GRINCH STOLE YOUR SOUL ?

    Reply

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