Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster who has extensively studied younger voters, told me one reason for that contrast is this: Young adults haven’t witnessed the earlier impeachment struggles of the 1970s and 1990s.
“For older Americans,” he said, “there’s a context to it” that helps voters judge whether Trump’s actions warrant removal. “There is no context for this youngest cohort, particularly in a world where every time Trump does something wrong—breaks another norm—Republicans just basically say, ‘That’s fine. Who cares?’”
Given that, Baumann thinks young people could be especially receptive to expressions of alarm about Trump’s behavior from the career government officials due to testify over the next few weeks. “Is there room to grow for impeachment support among young people? I think so,” he said. “It’s probably a lower bar to convince some of these younger Americans who already really dislike Trump to support his removal.”
One key goal for Democrats at the hearings, Cicilline told me, is to help viewers understand the full stakes of Trump’s actions. While the discussion so far over Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine has focused mostly on the danger to U.S. election integrity, Cicilline said Democrats will argue that Trump created a threat to American national security, too, by delaying the release of military aid Congress appropriated.
“I think that’s the most important part of this story: This is an ally of the United States that is critical to containing Russian aggression in that region of the world, and we substantially weakened their hand,” Cicilline said. “The only ones who benefited from withholding military aid is the Russians and Vladimir Putin. It is critical not just for Ukraine, but for the national-security interests of the United States.”
While Democrats are hopeful the hearings could persuade more voters critical of Trump to support his removal, there’s less expectation among partisans and analysts alike that they will convert a significant number of voters who back him now. It’s that immovable foundation of primarily Republican support that limits the degree to which the hearings can move public opinion overall—and also reduces the prospect that many, and perhaps any, GOP lawmakers will vote for impeachment.
Polls already show a wider gap between the parties than existed during earlier impeachment fights. In its final surveys at the time, Gallup found a roughly 40-percentage-point gap between Republicans and Democrats over whether President Richard Nixon should be removed, and a 60-point difference between the parties over President Bill Clinton. The Quinnipiac survey released in late October recorded a chasm that has already reached 80 percentage points: Eighty-six percent of Democrats, but just 6 percent of Republicans, said Trump should be removed.