More than half of Americans — and an overwhelming number of Democrats — say they approve of the fact that Congress hasinto President Trump. But as the inquiry begins, there is no national consensus on how to assess the president's actions.
Partisans have immediately and predictably split: most Democrats call the president's handling of mattersillegal, and deserving of impeachment.
Most Republicans call his actions proper — or, even if improper, then still legal — and feel they're an example of things that past presidents typically did, too. Most Americans think that because Congress is now taking up the matter, it will be unable to work on other issues.
Almost nine in 10 Democrats approve of the inquiry, and two-thirds strongly approve. Prior to the inquiry, some had wondered if taking up impeachment proceedings might divide a Democratic rank-and-file that has been long concerned with other policies like health care and guns. However, these findings suggest that it this is not the case: most moderate Democrats side with liberal Democrats in supporting impeachment proceedings. Of those who say they voted for a Democratic House candidate in 2018, nine in 10 feel this inquiry is necessary.
Characterizing the president's actions in particular, just under one-third of Americans say the president's handling of matters with Ukraine may have been improper but were nonetheless still legal. Just over a quarter, including most Republicans, says the president acted properly. Another four in 10, including most Democrats, feel he has acted illegally.
There is division over whether the president's deserves to be impeached. Just slightly more feel he does than he doesn't, and almost a quarter feel it's too soon to say — most of them say they want to wait to see what the facts show.
Most Republicans believe that the president's aims in the matter were to protect U.S. interests and stop corruption. Seven in 10 Republicans feel that his dealings with Ukraine are typical of what most past presidents have probably done in dealing with foreign countries.
Most Democrats say they were glad when they heard an impeachment inquiry had been launched, and another three in 10 described themselves feeling satisfied. Just over half of Republicans said they felt angry about it. And six in 10 Republicans said it made them want to defend the president. Under a quarter of Republicans said they do think the inquiry is necessary, but most of those who do still think his actions were proper or legal.
A majority of Americans have heard at least something about Mr. Trump's assertions concerning Joe Biden and his son and Ukraine. Almost two-thirds of Republicans feel these assertions warrant further investigation; just a quarter of Democrats feel the same.
Most of each partisan side thinks this will work out to their political advantage. A slight majority of Democrats think holding an impeachment inquiry in 2020 is better for them; just over half of Republicans think it's better for their side. A slim majority feel the Democrats are trying to politically damage the president with the inquiry.
Most Americans think Congress will be too distracted by an impeachment inquiry to work on other legislation and issues. It's mostly those who disapprove of starting the inquiry in the first place who hold this view, but a third of Democrats also feel this way. However, when Democrats choose from a list of things Congress can spend time on, more say they'd like Congress to focus its attention on impeachment now than health care or gun policy, in particular.
The CBS News survey is conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,059 U.S. residents interviewed between September 26-27, 2019. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 presidential vote and registration status. The margin of error is +/- 2.3 points.