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Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Franklin McCallie, a local activist, favors conviction of former President Donald Trump on the insurrection charge at issue in the upcoming Senate trial.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents to a new Power Poll survey this week said they believe the U.S. Senate should convict former President Donald Trump in an impeachment trial.

The Power Poll survey of influential local residents, conducted Monday through Thursday, asked respondents: "The U.S. House of Representatives' vote to impeach the president for a second time was historic. Focus now turns to the Senate. Do you believe the Senate should convict Donald Trump?"

About 72% said yes; 28% said no.

However, fewer poll respondents believe the Senate will do just that.

When asked, "Do you think the Senate will convict Donald Trump?," only one-third indicated they think senators will convict the former president, who was impeached Jan. 13 in the House of Representatives on an "incitement of insurrection" charge.

The Power Poll surveyed 134 Chattanoogans, and 81 replied, for a response rate of 60%.

The Nashville-based survey run by a former journalist operates in 19 cities mostly in the Southeast. The monthly survey of elected officials and leaders from business, civic and nonprofit organizations, media and education is not a scientific poll, but results offer insights into the opinions and beliefs of key decision-makers in the area.

Local activist and retired educator Franklin McCallie said Republicans must stand for principle and country when a Senate vote is held.

"Republican senators must look clearly — without fear or favor — at the criminal offense Trump committed, and join Democratic senators to convict," McCallie said. "If ever 'history' was watching, this is the vote."

The 232-197 vote to impeach in the House, which included 10 Republicans joining with Democrats, was conducted a week after Trump held a "Save America" rally near the Capitol. He told supporters, "All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they're doing and stolen by the fake news media. That's what they've done and what they're doing. We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn't happen. You don't concede when there's theft involved."

Afterward, a mob violently stormed and vandalized the Capitol; five people died.

Following the Capitol siege, Trump took to his favorite communication tool — Twitter — but was banned from the social media platform within days. Other tech companies have restricted his social media activity or related accounts.

Two-thirds of Power Poll respondents approve of those moves, which have unleashed a torrent of debate nationwide about free speech.

When asked, "Do you agree with the decision by social media companies to ban President Donald Trump from their platforms?," 68% said yes; 24% said no and 9% were unsure.

"The 'rigged election' narrative nearly broke our democracy and the work to rebuild must include a new definition of what free speech means in a virtual form," Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center President Mark McKnight said in response to the survey. "While it's concerning to see anyone silenced, the big tech companies had to act to prevent further violence."

Local consultant Zach Wamp, a former Republican congressman representing the 3rd District, noted that the "'fire in a crowded theater' limit to First Amendment expression doesn't really apply over the internet so many nations, including the U.S., now wrestle with what are reasonable limits because the 'rigged election' lie brought great damage to the republic and social media fueled the insurrection."

In answer to the question, "Do you think social media companies favor the views of liberals or conservatives?," 47% of survey respondents said companies "favor neither;" 44% said "favor liberals;" 3% said "favor conservatives;" and 6% said they were unsure.

Turning to the coronavirus pandemic and the shaky vaccine rollout in Tennessee and across the country, 56% of Power Poll respondents said they are "somewhat confident" that vaccination efforts will improve.

The survey asked "How confident are you that Tennessee state health officials and Hamilton County officials can turn distribution problems around quickly?" About 10% said "very confident," 56% said "somewhat confident;" 32% said "not confident;" and 2.5% said "don't know."

Chattanooga City Council member Carol Berz said the county should have been better prepared.

"Perhaps the private sector would have done better?" she wrote. "At any rate, thanks to all those who have sacrificed their time and energy to the distribution project. Perhaps we'll get it together soon. Our lives depend on it."

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