Capitol Alert

California Democratic voters disagree with Nancy Pelosi on impeaching the president

California Democrats overwhelmingly believe Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report did not clear President Donald Trump of wrongdoing, and a sizable majority want Congress to launch impeachment proceedings against the president now.

A new Public Policy Institute of California poll, conducted in late May, found that 66% of likely Democratic voters in California support moving forward with impeachment, despite arguments by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of San Francisco, and other party leaders who say it’s premature. Overall, 49% of California adults support impeaching the president, compared to just 39% of adults nationwide, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found.

In California for a party convention last weekend, Pelosi once again stopped short of calling for impeachment, but said her party will continue to “investigate the president’s welcoming of assault on our democracy” by the Russians.

Likely Democratic voters – 84 percent of them – also believe there is more to investigate following the completion of the Mueller report, as do 54% of likely independent voters in California. Just 16% of Republicans in the state agree.

California voters are similarly polarized over Trump’s job performance. Ninety percent of Democrats and 53% of Independents disapprove of the president, while 84% of Republicans approve. Fewer Republican voters, however, said they were certain support to Trump’s reelection: 65% said they would definitely vote for the president in 2020, while another 17% said they probably would.

Ninety three percent of Democrats said they definitely or probably would vote for someone else.

But while California Democrats are unified against Trump, they are not at all on the same page on the kind of candidate they want to challenge him in 2020. While 49% said a presidential nominee’s record and experience are more important than new ideas, nearly as many — 42% — said the opposite.

Likely Democratic voters in the state are also divided over what was more important in selecting a Democratic nominee: ideology or electability. According to the poll, 47 percent of Democrats believe it is more important to nominate a candidate who can beat Trump, while 43% said their priority is finding a candidate whose positions on the issues come closest to their own.

In both cases, the disagreement appears at least partly generational. When looking at likely Democratic voters as well as independents who lean Democratic, a majority of those under the age of 45 said a candidate’s positions are more important than their likelihood of beating Trump. A majority of Democratic or leaning Democratic voters over 45 said electability is more important. Younger voters were also more likely to say a candidate’s new ideas and approaches are more of a priority than experience.

That split could shape the nature of California’s presidential primary race, which is expected to intensify in the coming months. The state moved up its primary date to March 3, making it a factor in picking Democrats’ next nominee.

The two candidates leading in recent polls of state voters, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, embody opposite sides of the divide. Biden is broadly viewed as one of the most “electable” candidates when lined up against President Trump, while Sanders’ proposals energize the party’s activist base.

Both men, however, are in their 70s, with decades-long records in elected office. Other leading candidates, like California Sen. Kamala Harris, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, have sought to position themselves as the next generation of Democratic leaders, fresh faces with even fresher approaches to governing.

The next few months should help California Democrats begin to sort out their priorities and winnow down their choices in a massive 24-person field. Roughly three-quarters of likely Democratic voters said they are already following the primary race very or fairly closely, a number that is likely to tick up as the party’s primary debates begin later this month.

Republicans are also engaged — 70 percent of likely Republican voters said they, too, are following the news about the 2020 candidates very or fairly closely.

And voters from both parties appear energized to participate in what is poised to be a highly divisive election: 94% of California Democrats said it was very important to vote in 2020, as did 96% of Republicans.

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Emily Cadei works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where she covers national politics and policy for McClatchy’s California readers. A native of Sacramento, she has spent more than a decade in D.C. reporting on U.S. elections, Congress and foreign affairs for publications including Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call.
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