New Jersey residents joined some 13 million people nationwide who tuned into this week’s dramatic televised House impeachment hearings. For many it seemed to solidify already-held opinions — and those tended to be strident.
“I’ve been watching it every day. My husband and I watching it at night. We’re captivated,” said Denise Hickson from High Bridge. “Oh, yes, impeach. One hundred percent.”
“I don’t think he should be impeached,” said Verona resident Patty Rollo. “His term’s almost up, and if you don’t want him in next time you got to vote.”
“Not impeach. Not impeach,” said Califon resident Vicky. “I just feel that we have other things that are more pressing.”
“Definitely impeach,” said Wallington resident Sandra Sanchez. “Long overdue.”
Predictably, people filtered impeachment testimony through their own political lenses. What they hear as witnesses undergo cross-examination varies widely.
“They’ve had some very impressive witnesses that testified. I think they pretty much seem that they’re telling the truth,” said Patricia Horan, a Verona resident.
“I think it’s all show of nothing,” said Montclair resident Joe Longo. “It’s a lot of he said, she said. It’s not going to go anywhere.”
The 538 national composite poll on impeachment shows almost a tossup: 46.3% in favor and 45.6% against. But by party, 82.8% of Democrats favor impeachment, a wide margin over 42.7% of independents and just 10% of Republicans. Compared to a month ago, numbers look to be trending up. But will these hearings have any impact?
“Whether they’re tuning in on a daily basis, I would argue that there’s enough absorption of information out there to cause people to perhaps reconsider previous opinions,” said Krista Jenkins, director of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll.
Jenkins notes that impeachment hearings do move public opinion, but not in seismic shifts. She’s reluctant to compare these proceedings to polls from the Clinton and Nixon impeachment sessions because these hearings are weaponized via social media.
“We weren’t living in the digital age where basically what’s going on now is, there will be ongoing testimony and right away both sides are tweeting and hitting people with their spin on what was just said. So I think trying to compare how Americans are responding to this particular impeachment inquiry, relative to what happened in the Clinton years and the Nixon years, is almost comparing apples to oranges,” she said.
Jenkins says the president maintains a core base of supporters who likely won’t change their minds. She also points out that the hearings focus on foreign issues and that simply doesn’t engage some people. But the proceedings do reveal a wide divide.
“Unfortunately, partisan politics have stepped in and really muddied the waters of right and wrong,” said Robbinsville resident Dr. Charles Wallace. “It’s what side of the aisle do you stand on and what part of the truth are you looking to extract?”
The hearings aren’t currently scheduled to continue, but the political spin will certainly go on.