WASHINGTON -- It should come as no surprise to anyone that most Republicans aren't members of the Barack Obama fan club. According to one recent survey, a significant majority of Republicans in one state not only dislike the president but want to see him impeached. As a new HuffPost/YouGov national poll shows, however, questions about impeachment are a tricky business, and simply asking whether people support or oppose it may produce results that overstate their support.
A January survey of Texas voters conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 67 percent of Texas Republicans, and 39 percent of Texas voters overall, said they favor impeaching Obama. The survey asked, "Would you support or oppose impeaching President Obama?"
But that relatively straightforward question leaves open several possibilities for interpreting what respondents meant when they said they favor impeachment. For example, the question contained no definition of impeachment, so that some respondents may have misunderstood what impeachment entails, even if they grasped that it functions as some kind of reprimand. Some respondents could have been just expressing an unfavorable opinion of Obama (virtually all Republicans rate him unfavorably) or endorsing a more generic reprimand, rather than advocating a process that could remove the president from office after trial for "high crimes and misdemeanors."
To help better parse levels of support for impeaching the president, The Huffington Post and its polling partner YouGov conducted a survey experiment to see how question wording might affect that support. Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 2, a total of 3,000 respondents nationally were randomly assigned to answer one of three questions about impeaching the president, including the original question asked by PPP and two alternative questions.
The results showed both that a simple support/oppose question may overstate the number favoring impeachment and that support for impeachment remains surprisingly high among Republicans even when they are asked a more explanatory question.
One set of respondents answered the same question that was asked on the PPP poll. Similar results were found nationally to those that PPP found in Texas, particularly among Republicans. In the new survey, 35 percent of Americans overall and 66 percent of Republicans said they would support impeaching Obama.
The first alternative question asked respondents to choose between two options: Obama should be "impeached and removed from office" or he "hasn't committed crimes that would justify impeachment." The second alternative question allowed respondents to say they like Obama and think he should not be impeached, to say they think Obama should be impeached, or to say they dislike Obama but don't think he should be impeached.
Support for impeachment varied by 9 percentage points among the three questions, from 35 percent among those asked the original question to 26 percent of those asked the first alternative question. Support for impeachment among Republicans varied even more widely, from 66 percent of those asked the original question to 51 percent of those asked the first alternative.
The lowest support for impeachment, both among respondents overall and among Republicans specifically, came from the first alternative question, which made clear both that impeachment is a process to remove a president from office and that it is spurred by crimes committed by the president, rather than a more general reprimand or distaste for his policies. Even so, one-quarter of respondents and half of Republican respondents persisted in saying that Obama should be impeached and removed from office.
And those asked the second alternative question, which did not mention crimes but did ask if Obama should be "impeached and removed from office" and also gave respondents the option of expressing dislike of the president without calling for his impeachment, found a slightly higher 29 percent of respondents overall and 57 percent of Republicans would support impeachment.
The results of these polls, both on the state level and nationally, reflect the extreme dislike for Obama among Republicans. A recent YouGov/Economist poll found that nearly three-quarters of Republicans strongly disapprove of the job that the president is doing. Moreover, the desire to impeach a president of an opposing party isn't limited to Republicans: For example, a Time magazine poll conducted in November 2006 (and accessed through the Roper Center's iPoll database) found that 48 percent of Democrats were then in favor of impeaching George W. Bush, while an equal number were opposed.
More than anything, surveys finding support for impeachment show just how divided Americans are today along party lines and how strongly rank-and-file members of each party dislike presidents from the opposing party.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 2 among 3,000 U.S. adults, of whom 1,000 were randomly assigned to answer each question (no respondent was shown more than one of the questions). The poll used a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
Related on HuffPost:
Obama Is Not An American Citizen
One of the most popular Obama conspiracy theories (aka the Birther Movement), endorsed (or not denied) by the likes of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_263532.html">Tom Delay</a>, <a href=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_251393.html>Lou Dobbs</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_250891.html">Chuck Norris</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_242555.html">Liz Cheney</a>, it claims that Obama is not an American citizen, thus rendering his presidency illegitimate, or something. The theory hinges on the false claim that his birth certificate is fake. Birther queen Orly Taitz (a lawyer and dentist from California) continues to lead the march, despite her lawsuit getting <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/29/orly-taitz-lawsuit-thrown_n_338870.html">thrown out</a> and a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/13/orly-taitz-slapped-with-2_n_318546.html">$20,000 fine</a>.
Obama Wants "Re-Education Camps For Young People
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a proponent of many bizarre and outlandish critiques of President Obama, declared in April that the White House was trying to install <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/06/bachmann-obama-wants-re-e_n_183552.html">youth re-education camps</a>. "It's under the guise of -- quote -- volunteerism. But it's not volunteers at all. It's paying people to do work on behalf of government," said the Minnesota Republican. "I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."
Larry Sinclair's Rabbit Hole Of Insanity
This one is a doozy. Larry Sinclair, <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0608/11164.html">a petty criminal specializing in forgery</a>, spread wild accusations via YouTube involving <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/18/obama-accuser-larry-sincl_n_107900.html">gay sex, drugs and possible murder committed by Barack Obama</a>. At one point reporters apparently took Sinclair seriously enough to attend a press conference he gave, most remarkable for his lawyer's appearance in a kilt, which he explained was intended to secure comfort for his unusually large sexual organs: "Those at the other end of the spectrum find [pants] quite confining."
The Case Of The Fake Thesis
In which a group of right-wingers get taken in by a satiric blog post on Barack Obama's college thesis, written ages ago, and frantically presented as real. The post, which was tagged as SATIRE, described how <em>Time</em> Magazine's Joe Klein had obtained ten pages of a thesis written by Barack Obama, in which he wrote about how the Constitution was "inherently flawed." Then Rush Limbaugh and Michael Ledeen presented this story as <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/23/fake-obama-thesis-story-g_n_332255.html">fact</a>.
Bill Ayers Wrote 'Dreams From My Father"
A popular theory on right-wing websites like <a href="http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2101151/posts">The Free Republic</a>, <a href="http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/10/who_wrote_dreams_from_my_fathe_1.html">American Thinker</a> and <a href="http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=110784">WorldNetDaily</a>, claiming that educator (and former radical) Bill Ayers helped Obama write "Dreams Of My Father." There is <a href="http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/category/books/">no evidence</a> supporting this claim.
Obama As Antichrist
Is Obama the Antichrist? <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDB5BFoSQLs&feature=player_embedded">These</a> <a href="http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/antichrist.asp">folks</a> think maybe so. McCain also verged on endorsing this theory during the campaign season with an attack ad called "<a href="http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1830590,00.html">The One.</a>"
Obama As Muslim
A theory that began circulating during the campaign season and has been kept alive by Tea Partiers, and other ultra-conservatives. It's taken different forms over the year (<a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/6516016/Will-Obama-Swearin-on-the-Holy-Koran-or-the-Holy-Bible-After-Attacking-Jesus-Sermon-on-the-Mount">Will Obama be sworn into office on Qur'an??</a>, asks one website.) Most recently Tea Party leader Mark Williams had a meltdown on CNN, and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/15/tea-party-leader-melts-do_n_286933.html">claimed</a> that Obama was an "Indonesian Muslim" and a "welfare thug." According to Obama and those who know him, this is not so.
Tells America In His Acceptance Speech To "Serve Satan"
Ever listened to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" backwards? How about Obama's presidential acceptance speech? This video suggests that the speech, like the Zeppelin song, contains a Satanic message when played in reverse. Go ahead - take a bong hit, try it and tell us what you hear.
Hugo Chavez Funded The Obama Campaign
Did Hugo Chavez fund the Obama campaign? No. But some people thought so after a Fox News affiliate issued a false report claiming that <a href="http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/chavez.asp">he did</a>.
Michelle Banished Barack's Girlfriend To The Caribbean
One of the few conspiracy theories to go after the Obamas' marriage. The claim is that Michelle banished Barack's female aide (and suspected lover) to the Caribbean. Every person involved, including the woman, says this is <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1076695/Obama-hit-affair-smears-following-claims-attractive-aide-banned-wife.html">false</a>.
Obama Is Malcolm X's Son
Initiated by the author of the <a href="http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2008/10/how-could-stanl.html">Atlas Shrugged</a> blog and claiming that Obama is actually Malcolm X's son. As Ezra Klein <a href="http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=10&year=2008&base_name=obama_x">pointed out</a> at the time: "Honestly, who wouldn't give Malcolm props for that one?" Klein continued: "And think there's anyway we can fit Tupac into the bloodline? Or maybe Obama actually is Tupac? You know that whole shooting was some bullshit, right? Incidentally, I see no reason to stop with Malcolm. History is full of great Xs for Barack Obama to be related to. Professor X, which would explain why millions of white people lose their minds in his presence. Weapon X, which would explain the adamantium grafted onto his skeleton. XML, which would explain why it's so easy to structure his data. I'm sure there are others."