Fewer than half of all Americans say President Donald Trump should be removed from office following his historic impeachment, according to a poll.
The Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Thursday (local time) presents a challenge for Democrats, who will seek to have Mr Trump removed in a trial in the US Senate in January.
The national online survey was conducted in the hours after the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to charge Mr Trump with abusing his office and obstructing Congress.
It found that the rare and contentious act had done little to change minds in a divided country.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, was initially hesitant to bring impeachment charges against Mr Trump because she was concerned there would not be enough public support.
Her party then sought to build support through public hearings on the allegations that Mr Trump withheld military aid for Ukraine and pressured its president to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, before Wednesday’s historic impeachment vote.
Of those polled by Reuters and Ipsos, 53 per cent agreed Mr Trump abused his office and 51 per cent agreed that he obstructed Congress.
Some 42 per cent of respondents – most of them Democrats – said Congress should carry out its ultimate sanction and remove the president from office.
Another 17 per cent said Mr Trump should be formally reprimanded with a censure, and 29 per cent wanted the charges dismissed. The rest had no opinion.
The Republicans who control the Senate have largely supported Mr Trump throughout the House proceedings.
The leader of the upper chamber, Senator Mitch McConnell, has said there is no chance of the President being convicted.
The US public has remained sharply divided on impeaching Mr Trump, who has denounced the hearings as a witch hunt and an illegal attempt to oust him from office.
Overall, only 44 per cent of the American public said they approved of the House’s handling of the impeachment, while 41 per cent disapproved.
Further, 26 per cent said they were more supportive of Mr Trump since the process started, while 20 per cent were less supportive.
“If Trump is acquitted and he does a victory lap, it really could be a minus for him,” University of Michigan political scientist Nicholas Valentino said.
“It could become a mobilising tool for the Democrats.”
The poll came as Democrats sought to focus attention on Mr Trump’s trial ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Ms Pelosi said she would not formally hand off impeachment to the Senate until she got a sense of how Mr McConnell would manage the trial.
“We’re ready when we see what they have,” she said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking on the impeachment of President Trump: ‘Over the last 12 weeks, the House Democrats have conducted the most rushed, least thorough and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history’ https://t.co/7MWomkTNkv pic.twitter.com/KUGZNuAhzo
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 20, 2019
Democrats want Mr McConnell to allow top Mr Trump aides, including White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and the President’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, to testify, according to a senior Democratic aide.
“Is the President’s case so weak that none of the President’s men can defend him under oath?” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer asked.
Mr Trump has expressed an interest in a long trial with witnesses, but senior Republican senators want it to be short to try to put the affair behind them.
Earlier, Mr McConnell called Mr Trump’s impeachment “toxic” and accused Democrats of succumbing to “transient passions and factionalism”.
“The vote did not reflect what had been proven. It only reflects how they feel about the President. The Senate must put this right,” Mr McConnell said on the Senate floor.
The Senate is highly unlikely to find Mr Trump guilty and remove him from office, however.
At least 20 Republican senators would have to vote to convict Mr Trump. So far none have indicated that is likely.
Ms Pelosi’s tactic gave Democrats time to convince some Senate Republicans that they should hear from witnesses, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said.