NASHVILLE — Only about a third of Tennesseans say in a new Vanderbilt University poll that President Donald Trump broke the law, should be impeached and removed from office on charges he abused his power to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and obstructed Congress' efforts to investigate.
Just over half of the 1,000 registered voters surveyed said in the Nov. 19-Dec. 5 survey that the Republican shouldn't be removed from office. Thirty-five percent, mostly Democrats, said Trump should go.
That's just one of the findings in Vanderbilt's annual fall survey of Tennesseans on political figures, controversies and issues.
With the Democratic-controlled U.S. House expected to impeach Trump on Wednesday, 34% of all voters surveyed said Trump did "nothing wrong" in asking Ukraine to investigate Biden.
Another 16% said the president "did something wrong" but "it was not an impeachable offense." Seven percent agreed the president "broke the law and should be impeached, but not removed from office."
Sixty-seven percent of Republicans said Trump did nothing wrong, while 4% of Democrats and 25% of independents agreed.
Seventy-six percent of Democrats said Trump broke the law and should be impeached and removed from office, with just 2% of Republicans agreeing. But 32% of independents agreed he should be impeached and removed.
If impeached as expected by the House, the impeachment case would go before the Republican-controlled Senate for trial. GOP senators are widely expected to acquit Trump on House impeachment articles.
This year's survey was conducted on behalf of Vanderbilt by the SSRS research firm. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. SSRS has an "A/B" rating by the independent group FiveThirtyEight.
On another question, the poll shows a more narrow margin in Tennesseans' views of Trump's job performance, with 50% of those surveyed saying they approve of how Trump is handling his job while 46% disapproved. That's a decrease from May when 54% approved of the president's job performance.
Dr. John Geer, a Vanderbilt political science professor and the Vanderbilt Poll's co-director, said in an interview that "obviously there's huge partisan differences" on the president.
Geer said what he and co-director Dr. Josh Clinton sought to do was give people a variety of options to choose from "rather than forcing people to say whether he should be impeached or not, we wanted to get a little more nuance."
U.S. House Democrats on Monday laid out their case for impeaching the president, an action expected to be taken on Wednesday. At least two Democrats, one who reportedly has now switched parties, are expected to oppose the impeachment, while no Republicans are expected to support it.
The House impeachment vote will send the issue to the Republican-controlled Senate ,which is unlikely to convict Trump of the two articles of impeachment.
The Vanderbilt Poll, conducted twice yearly, also looked at Tennesseans' views on a number of other issues as well as their thoughts about top state officeholders.
Tennesseans across the political spectrum continue to broadly agree on many key issues, including on the seriousness of the opioid crisis, the need for improved screening for gun purchases and the importance of child care," Vanderbilt said in its news release on the fall poll.
Survey respondents agree that Tennessee's economy is strong. And they think Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who took office in January, is doing a good job so far.
"Time and time again, this poll has shown how pragmatic Tennesseans are," said Geer, Ginny and Conner Searcy, dean of the College of Arts and Science. "When they see a problem, they want to come together to fix it. What we find is that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit for policymakers, even on some very challenging topics."
Eighty-four percent of Tennesseans said they think the state's economy is in good shape, a third of voters are still worried about making ends meet and a quarter say they struggle to pay for health care.
The problems with health care is even more pronounced in rural communities, according to poll findings.
"When you ask people to evaluate something as complicated as the economy, you don't actually know if they're including themselves in the equation," said poll co-director Clinton, Vanderbilt's Abby and Jon Winkelreid, professor of Political Science. "What this shows us is that even though most people feel like the state's doing well, it doesn't mean there aren't still serious issues facing Tennesseans across the state — especially in rural areas."
Other findings include:
— 62% of those surveyed approve of Lee's job performance, while 19 percent disapprove.
— On the controversy over a bust of Confederate cavalry general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose bust is now prominently displayed in the Tennessee Capitol, just 20% said the bust should remain where it is. Another 47% said the bust should be removed and placed in a museum, while 29% said Forrest's bust should be removed and not displayed. Four percent said they didn't know and 1 percent refused to say.
— As to whether Tennessee laws should be changed to make it easier or harder to buy a gun or if gun laws should remain as they are now, only 6% of respondents said it should be easier, 45% said harder and 47% said they should remain the same.
— Forty-six percent of those surveyed said they approve of the job that U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former governor who is stepping down next year at the end of his third six-year term, is doing. Thirty-four percent disapproved.
— Voters were almost evenly divided on what kind of job they think U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, is doing. Forty-four percent said they approved of Blackburn, but 40% said they disapproved. Another 4% said it was too early to tell, while 11% said they didn't know.
— The survey also looked at voters' name recognition of three announced candidates in Republican and Democratic U.S. Senate primaries next August to become their party nominees to succeed the retiring Alexander.
Forty-one percent of those surveyed said they had heard of Republican and former U.S. ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, also a onetime state commissioner of economic development.
Only 6% said they had heard of his main GOP primary rival, Nashville trauma surgeon Manny Sethi.
Only 9% said they had heard of Democrat James Mackler, a Nashville attorney and Iraq War veteran.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher.
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