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Impeachment crushed US president Richard Nixon's approval ratings, but Bill Clinton emerged unscathed. Here's how Trump could survive, too.

Shayanne Gal , Business Insider US
 Nov 27, 2019, 09:16 AM
Bettman/Getty; Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
  • US Presidents Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump have all faced impeachment inquiries.
  • The Gallup approval ratings during the investigations tell three very different stories.
  • By the time Nixon resigned to avoid being impeached, he was sitting at some of his lowest approval ratings ever.
  • Clinton, on the other hand, was impeached and then acquitted, and by then he had better approval ratings than when he was first elected.
  • Trump's impeachment has just had its televised hearings, and as of late October, his approval ratings were sitting steady.
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A president's approval ratings say it all.

Presidents Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump have all faced impeachment inquiries, and data show that if Trump follows the Clinton playbook, he could emerge scot-free.

While Nixon resigned before he was impeached, the Senate acquitted Clinton after the House impeached him.

Their approval ratings help explain why.

There were three beginnings - the Watergate break-in, Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, and Trump's phone call with Ukraine. So far, there have been two different endings - Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. Clinton was impeached, but was then acquitted. Whether Trump will be impeached is still unclear. Based on the makeup of Congress, he'll likely be impeached in the House and acqui ted in the Senate.

How Republicans and Democrats felt about each president during the impeachment inquiries has been remarkably different. Over the course of Nixon's investigation, which at points 80% of Americans watched during primetime TV, Nixon fell far from favour. By the time he resigned, he was sitting at some of his lowest approval ratings ever.

By the time Clinton emerged victorious after a five-week Senate trial, he had a better approval rating than when he was first elected.

Earlier this month, Clinton told CNN's Jake Tapper his one piece of advice for Trump was to let the lawyers deal with impeachment, and focus on his work. "You don't get the days back you blow off," Clinton said. "Every day's an opportunity to make something good happen."

In late October, just before Trump's televised hearings, which had far less TV viewers than Nixon's hearings, the 45th president's ratings were holding steady, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

This week, former Clinton strategist Mark Penn visited the White House to advise Trump on how to deal with impeachment, according to the Washington Post. Penn told Trump to "stay focused on the substance," and ignore the less important subjects, three anonymous sources told the Post. "You've got to govern," Penn said.

Here's how the approval ratings for Nixon, Clinton, and Trump changed by party throughout their presidencies and impeachment inquiries, according to Gallup.

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

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