New Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows voters believe Bolton over Trump — and they want Bolton to testify

According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, bombshell revelations from an upcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton — which reportedly includes an account of President Trump insisting that military aid to Ukraine be withheld until officials there announced investigations into his political rivals — have moved public opinion further in favor of calling Bolton to testify in Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial.

Bolton’s claim is the first time a senior administration official has provided first-person evidence of an explicit quid pro quo in the president’s dealings with Ukraine, an issue at the heart of the Senate proceedings.

Trump has denied the allegation, tweeting that he “NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats.” Yet when the Yahoo News/YouGov poll asked registered voters who they believed, 45 percent said Bolton and only 39 percent said Trump.

The poll found that a clear majority of registered voters (55 percent) now want to hear Bolton’s testimony, up 2 percentage points from the previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll, which was conducted before the Bolton news broke. Only 29 percent of registered voters say they don’t want to hear from Bolton.

John Bolton and Donald Trump
John Bolton and Donald Trump. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP(2), Getty Images)

Seeking to gauge how views on impeachment have shifted over the last week, the new poll surveyed the same voters as the earlier poll and was conducted Jan. 28 and 29.

Among the more than 1,200 respondents surveyed both before and after the Bolton revelations, 23 percent of those who initially said the Senate should not call new witnesses have changed their mind since last week, with 11 percent now saying the Senate should call new witnesses and 12 percent now saying they’re not sure. A smaller percentage (16 percent) have moved in the opposite direction on witnesses, from “yes” to “no” or “not sure.”

Over the last week there was even more movement on the question of whether Bolton himself should testify, with a combined 35 percent of those who previously said “no” moving to “yes” (20 percent) or “not sure” (15 percent). Meanwhile, only 17 percent of those who previously said “yes” moved to “no (11 percent) or “not sure” (6 percent).

Yet the poll also found that the Bolton revelations have polarized views on impeachment witnesses. Last week, 43 percent of Republicans said the Senate should not call new witnesses; 35 percent said new witnesses should be called. In the wake of the Bolton news, 56 percent of Republicans now say the Senate should not call witnesses while only 20 percent say new witness should be called. That’s a nearly 30-point net shift among Republicans against new witnesses in a single week.

Both Democrats and independents continue to favor new witnesses, with 86 percent of Democrats saying they should be called and 53 percent of independents saying the same.

Among Republicans, the shift against calling Bolton himself has been nearly as pronounced. When asked last week whether they wanted to hear Bolton testify, 33 percent of Republicans said yes; 39 percent said no. This week, however, 53 percent of Republicans said they did not want to hear from Bolton, while only 25 percent said they did want to hear from him — a net shift of more than 20 percentage points. At the same time, the percentage of Democrats saying they want to hear from Bolton increased 10 points from last week to this week.

Such polarization has actually depressed overall interest in new witnesses, with the percentage of registered voters who say they want to hear from other figures falling slightly from last week. Even so, majorities of registered voters still want to hear testimony from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani (56 percent) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (56 percent). Interest in hearing from Joe Biden and his son Hunter, on the other hand, has fallen below 50 percent among registered voters since last week.

What hasn’t changed is the public’s overarching opinion about Trump’s alleged misconduct. A majority of registered voters (52 percent yes vs. 43 percent no) continue to say that he abused his power as president; at the same time, registered voters remain evenly divided (44 percent yes vs. 46 percent no) over the question of whether the president should be removed from office.

That said, the Senate’s upcoming vote Friday on whether to allow new witnesses — a development Republicans now believe they have the votes to block — could trigger real political consequences for senators facing reelection in November. Asked whether their senator’s decision to vote against calling new witnesses will make them more or less likely to vote for that senator on Election Day, 45 percent of registered voters in states with 2020 Senate elections said “less likely.” Only 21 percent said the opposite.

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