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UNG professors explain why most impeachment opinions are so biased
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters Aug. 18, 2019, before boarding Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J. - photo by Associated Press

As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, the Republican-led legislative body is expected to acquit the president, according to The Associated Press.

The Democrat-majority U.S. House of Representatives voted in December, largely along party lines, to impeach Trump. 

The impeachment process has shown how partisan politics have become, both in Congress and among friends and family, Glen Smith, a professor of political science at the University of North Georgia, said.

“Since the 2016 election, we’ve seen more and more people just isolate themselves from friends, even relatives, that disagree with them,” Smith said. “We’ve seen an increase in family estrangement, we’ve seen more homophily, or homogenous discussion groups, where people over time just weeded out anybody who had differing opinions.”

As people lose contact with those who have different views, they also seek out information that confirms their opinions, whether that is through conversations with other people or the news and media sources they choose.

People can end up in an “echo chamber” where they never hear the other side or just decide to ignore it, Smith said. Anyone on the other side then “seems like an outsider,” he said.

“We have a tendency as human beings to uncritically accept any information that supports our views,” he said.

Scott Meachum, an assistant professor of political science at UNG, said people’s established views of Trump will affect how they view the impeachment process and remember Trump’s presidency later.

“Whether people view it positively or negatively, I think a lot of that is going to fall back on how they viewed the process, and honestly, how they viewed President Trump as a president,” Meachum said. “But he is certainly going to have that impeachment now as part of his legacy.”

The impeachment process has been reflective of the partisan nature of modern politics, Meachum said.

“Each side, each party just views the other through a lens of distrust at this point,” he said.

The impeachment trial also comes during an election year, and Trump will be on the ballot for reelection in November. Meachum said for Trump’s supporters, however, the trial will likely not be seen as an issue.

“With the base, or among the most ardent supporters, it’s not going to be seen as a disqualifying factor at all,” Meachum said. “On the other side of things, I think we’re going to have Democratic candidates, particularly at the national level, presidential, Senate and House, that are going to use the impeachment, or the lack of removal specifically in the case of the Senate, as a weapon to some degree.”

But Smith said political discussions can stay civil. 

“The No. 1 thing you can do is not take it so personally. … to disconnect your own opinions from your self-esteem, your sense of self-worth,” Smith said.

People should be more open to hearing the other side, Smith said.

 “You might be wrong. You might not have all the information. Your own thinking might be biased,” he said.

And it doesn’t have to be all about winning, he said.

“Both Republicans and Democrats, the stronger you identify, the more you see this as a game. That’s what I think really charges this up,” Smith said. “Republicans see that if Donald Trump is removed from office, somehow they’ve lost. In this world where it’s all Democrats versus Republicans, Democrats see that they have to get a victory and push Donald Trump out of office. It kind of warps our thinking.”

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