ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The impeachment inquiry into President Trump is dominating the news. There has been five days of public hearings, hours of witness testimony, and large majorities of Americans tell pollsters they are paying attention. So how much of it are they absorbing? Well, we sent NPR's Don Gonyea to ask voters in one location, a small college campus in Kenosha, Wis.
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Carthage College sits right on Lake Michigan. Walk the campus, and you'll pass a statue of Abraham Lincoln, who was once a trustee of the college. You may hear chapel bells. And this week, in a commons area just inside the library building, you'll find a flat screen TV set up to encourage students to watch some history in real time.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ADAM SCHIFF: The committee will come to order.
GONYEA: On Wednesday, with campus still slowly coming to life, the first one to wander past the TV was food services supervisor Michelle Chambers.
MICHELLE CHAMBERS: I see the kids come sit in the chairs. I think it's important for them, you know, to understand what's going on and to make their decision either way, but to be a part of it.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SCHIFF: Because President Donald Trump sought to condition military aid to Ukraine...
GONYEA: But an 8 a.m. Central time start to the hearings is pretty early on a college campus, so the chairs in this room are empty at first. Twenty year-old Christian Lubke arrives after about an hour. He's studying political science. But despite that, he admits...
CHRISTIAN LUBKE: I don't really know. I haven't been paying much attention.
GONYEA: By now, the day's star witness, Gordon Sondland, is in close-up on the television set.
So do you know who this is testifying today?
LUBKE: Gordon Sutherland.
GONYEA: Yep - Sondland, Sondland.
GONYEA: He is the ambassador. He's one of the main...
LUBKE: EU, yeah.
GONYEA: He has lots of company, of course, as Americans got to know the ambassador's name in recent days. Lubke is a Republican who supports President Trump, but he does not consider the proceedings a witch hunt.
Morgan Taylor is a Democrat studying music and French. She is very much up to speed on Sondland's testimony.
He is now interpreting that as...
MORGAN TAYLOR: He's now saying as yes, quid pro quo, which is - right. And there it is right under there, the yes, quid pro quo.
GONYEA: Taylor points to the titles on CNN as Sondland testifies on TV, and she admits to being frustrated with classmates who aren't as locked in.
TAYLOR: On the first day the TV was out here, I was standing in line to get a bagel. And people were like, wait, who's getting impeached? And I was like, are you kidding me, who's getting impeached? Who do you think?
GONYEA: Student Asmou Diallo is one of those who was only just starting to pay attention. An independent who says she leans Democratic, Diallo does not like Trump, but is also not holding her breath.
ASMOU DIALLO: I don't think anything is going to happen, to be honest. I think that the impeachment hearings are going to play out, and then not much will change after that.
GONYEA: Then there's 19-year-old Trevor Bork, who says his politics are somewhere between moderate and conservative. He supports Trump, though he admits he's not as enthusiastic about the president as he was four years ago. Bork says watching the hearings, though, has been mostly frustrating.
TREVOR BORK: There's always senators asking softball questions, and there's always other senators asking hardball questions.
GONYEA: Bork, who studies accounting, says he doesn't think the hearings will change anything. And come next election year, he says only one thing will matter for the president.
BORK: If Trump goes out and he has a good economy and pulls out job numbers, I think that's going to be way more important than any impeachment investigation.
GONYEA: Regardless of how closely these students are paying attention to the impeachment inquiry, they were all very aware that there is an election next year and what state they live in.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Kenosha, Wis.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.