President Donald Trump is unlikely to be voted out of office while Republicans hold the Senate, but that doesn’t mean impeachment isn’t a smart move for Democrats.
According to data collected by research firm Ipsos, impeachment proceedings often have a negative affect on the party in power when the next election rolls around.
Just two presidents have been impeached in U.S. history, and neither were removed from office (Richard Nixon resigned before being put to trial in the Senate). To get a clearer picture of such proceedings, Ipsos gathered data on Democratic countries with presidential systems where, over the past 3o years, there has been an attempt to remove the chief executive through a legal or constitutional process (as opposed to a coup).
The research shows that of the 21 cases identified, 57% resulted in the president leaving office, voluntarily or otherwise. When the president’s party controlled the deciding legislative body, however, this number drops to 14%.
With a Republican Senate, therefore, Trump is unlikely to be kicked out of the White House. The GOP remains staunchly in support of the president despite revelations that he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for help investigating 2020 candidate Joe Biden this summer. Many Democrats from swing districts were wary of putting their reelection on the line, but came out in favor of impeachment after this news.
According to Clifford Young, president of U.S. Public Affairs for Ipsos, the causes for impeachment proceedings globally are “highly variable,” but typically stem from “problematic actions from the president and opposition control of the legislature.”
“We found only a handful of cases where the president’s own party began impeachment proceedings,” said Young, “suggesting that around the world this remains a primarily political action.”
Despite their initial hesitancy on launching an impeachment inquiry, Democrats might not have to worry about 2020. The data shows there’s rarely any electoral consequence for initiating impeachment proceedings.
The party of a president who left office won reelection 14% of the time—in just three cases—meaning the minority party is more likely to succeed in any general election following impeachment proceedings.
“This data set indicates that if a president is impeached, leaving office or not, the chances his or party hold onto the presidency are less than 1 in 5,” explained Young. “This indicates that all things being equal, for Trump and the Republicans the prospects for 2020 are less than rosey.”
Support for impeachment among the public jumped to 43% in the days following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement, and according to the latest CNBC All-America Economic Survey, Trump’s job approval is at an all-time low of 37%.
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