President Barack Obama's administration is currently facing three scandals — Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits, and the Justice Department investigations into reporters — resulting in a majority of Americans wanting the president to be impeached.
Or, at least, that's what a poll conducted by Wenzel Strategies (headed by Fritz Wenzel) reported last month. The Wenzel poll claims that half of Americans, including over a quarter of Democrats, say that each of these three scandals, individually, is sufficient grounds to impeach Obama.
And yet, despite all three scandals being in play at once, Obama's approval rating hovers around 50%, pretty much where it's been since the beginning of 2010. In other words, other polls show his post-scandal approval ratings to be much the same as before Americans found out about Benghazi, etc. If anything, far from creating a groundswell for impeachment, it seems like the scandals have done surprisingly little to tarnish Obama's political position.
(Technically, only the House of Representatives can impeach a president, which results in the Senate then considering the House's charges to see if they merit removing the president from office. But, colloquially, the whole process is referred to as impeachment.)
But the Wenzel poll says the drive for impeachment has gotten stronger since March, when Wenzel published another poll showing support for impeaching Obama only slightly trailing opposition to impeachment. Back then, however, Wenzel claimed it was Obama's push for amnesty for illegal immigrants and his military intervention against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi that was compelling people to call for Obama's ouster. (I guess that makes five scandals, altogether, because Obama's immigration position still stands and Gaddafi is still dead.) Yet most of the other polling firms have Obama's approval rating wandering between 45%-55% for the last three years.
Wenzel is clearly an outlier among polls.
Now, outliers aren't always wrong, but Wenzel's recent history in the 2012 elections shows that it was often both: outside the norm and ultimately incorrect. In polling to determine who would carry which states — Obama or GOP challenger Mitt Romney — Wenzel favored Romney in Ohio by three points (Obama won by three), and Romney in Virginia by two points (Obama won by four).
And Wenzel also fared badly in the 2012 Senate elections, too. Even after Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) August 19 "legitimate rape" remarks, Wenzel still polled Akin as leading the incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill. Most other polls disagreed, and McCaskill went on to win by 15 points. In each of the Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin races for Senate, Wenzel had the Republican candidate ahead, yet the Democrat candidate won in each state by five points or more. And in Pennsylvania, Wenzel gave incumbent Democrat Bob Casey, Jr., a one-point lead over GOP challenger Tom Smith, but Casey went on to win by nine points.
So, in 2012, Wenzel often missed the mark in favor of Republicans by five points or more. Coincidentally enough, Nate Silver (polling analyst at FiveThirtyEight) said just prior to the election that, "polls from this particular firm have been four or five points Republican-leaning relative to the consensus."
Now, we can get into a long debate about why Wenzel's polls are inaccurate — is it a small sample size, or poorly crafted questions? — and why they so consistently overstate GOP support — is Wenzel just biased? — but their results are clearly suspect at best. There's not a lot of national polling out there on impeachment, but one poll puts support for impeaching Obama at 35% of Americans at most, and never more than one in six Democrats. And even those results varied depending on how the question was asked, with one version only garnering 26% support for impeachment.
Certainly, there are a lot of people in the U.S. who would like Obama to be impeached. And maybe the scandals of the Obama administration will prove to be dastardly enough to actually unseat him. But an outlier poll from a firm with a poor record of predicting elections shouldn't make us wonder if Obama is on his way out. We should focus on the details of the scandals themselves, not on what appears to be the wishful thinking of Wenzel Strategies.