3 reasons why impeachment fatigue has already set in

Greg Nash

Less than a week into publicly-televised impeachment hearings, the public’s overall interest in the historic proceedings is relatively low.

And that’s not a good sign for Democrats.

The first day of the impeachment hearings were watched by nearly 13.8 million people across multiple broadcast and cable outlets. So that’s a strong number showing an engaged nation, right?

Nope. And here’s why:

The 13.8 million people who tuned in on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CSPAN and PBS marks a 31 percent drop from the number of people who watched former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017, which delivered more than 19 million viewers.

The 13.8 million who watched the first day of the impeachment hearings were also two million fewer than the number who tuned in to former Trump personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen’s testimony, which delivered 15.8 million viewers.

It’s also 1.5 million fewer than the number who tuned in to the first Democratic debates, which didn’t have the benefit of being on most of the major broadcast networks and all of the cable news networks. 

On Friday, the number declined even further, with just 12.7 million tuning in, a drop of more than one million viewers from Wednesday. That’s a horrible sign for Democrats. 

So why are the impeachment viewership numbers so flat? Here are three reasons:

1. All the media’s chips were pushed to the middle of the table during the Mueller investigation. Russian collusion with Trump to fix the 2016 election was the big, sexy sell. But after nearly two years of covering (more speculating than covering, actually) a story that more than a few people thought would end the Trump presidency, the report released in April 2017 showed no collusion and therefore no payoff for the half of the country that wanted Trump gone.

Ukraine and talk of quid pro quos now serve as the limp sequel to all things Russia. The story isn’t as easy to understand as collusion, nor is it remotely as sexy. According to a new CBS News poll, just one in five Americans say they think “the events surrounding impeachment have been very easy to follow so far.” That’s a stunningly low number. 

2.This impeachment has no intrigue: In 1974, 410 members of Congress voted in favor of starting the impeachment process, while just four voted against. In 2019, not one House Republican voted in favor of starting impeachment proceedings.  

Back then, the public was very much engaged in the process. According to Gallup, 71 percent of Americans tuned in to watch the Nixon impeachment hearings. In 2019, the number is less than 5 percent of the population in terms of TV viewership. 

3. The messenger isn’t trusted. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is officially the face of impeachment on the Democratic side. If the goal is to create some Republican buy-in to make this process look even a little bipartisan, Schiff is about the last person on Capitol Hill you’d hire for the job.

And polls reflect that: 52 percent of those polled by CBS News say Democrats are doing a bad job of handling the inquiry thus far. In the end, this feels more like a political food fight than any honest search for truth.  

Impeachment continues this week. Numbers will likely continue to fall unless the president himself testifies, something he wrote Monday he’s open to doing

And after this week, we’re in Thanksgiving week, which means many people will be traveling and visiting family. Then comes December and the holiday season before the 2020 race takes center stage. 

Democrats are already almost out of runway on impeachment. The American public already appears bored. As hard as it is to believe, impeachment of a president isn’t the ratings blockbuster, must-see-TV event it once was.

Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill and co-host of “WOR Tonight with Joe Concha” weeknights on 710-WOR in New York. Follow him on Twitter @JoeConchaTV. 

Tags Adam Schiff CBS CBS News CNN Donald Trump Fox News impeachment Impeachment Impeachment in the United States Impeachment process against Richard Nixon James Comey Michael Cohen MSNBC Mueller investigation NBC Presidency of Donald Trump Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections

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