POLITICO magazine commissioned this poll because we believed, despite some initial polling shortly after Trump’s federal indictment, that we could dig deeper into public sentiment. How well do people really understand the charges against Trump and believe he is guilty? What kind of sentences do they think fit the crimes if he is found guilty? And, of course, what impact might all of this have on Trump’s presidential bid?
The poll was conducted June 27-28, about three weeks after Trump’s federal indictment and nearly three months after Trump was criminally charged by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. The survey had a sample of 1,005 adults aged 18 or older, who were interviewed online; it has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points for all respondents.
At this point, about half the country believes Trump committed the crimes he is charged with.
Forty-nine percent of those polled — including 25% Republicans — said they believed Trump was guilty in the pending federal lawsuits, which allege he deliberately kept sensitive government documents after leaving office and obstructing a subsequent federal investigation. 48% of nearly identical respondents – including 24% Republicans – believe Trump is guilty in the ongoing Manhattan prosecutor’s lawsuit, which alleges Trump falsified business documents in connection with payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 election in order to silence her over an alleged sexual relationship between the two.
On the timing issue, however, there was more unity.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) said the trial in the pending federal lawsuits should take place before the presidential election next November – a figure that includes nearly half of Republican respondents (46%) . Fewer, but still a solid majority, said the trial should take place before the start of the Republican primaries early next year (57% of all respondents, including 42% of Republican respondents).
The findings could bolster the position of federal prosecutors, who have been pushing for a trial date as early as December. Trump is expected to try to drag out the proceedings as long as possible, not least because he would likely be able to end the lawsuits if re-elected. But the federal law that governs the setting of trial dates requires judges to consider not only the interests of the accused, but also “the best interests of the public.”
What should happen to Trump if he is convicted? Forty-three percent said he should go to jail, but most were willing to spare him jail time. Nearly a quarter of respondents said Trump should face no penalties (22%), while 18% said he should get probation and 17% said he should only face probation. a monetary penalty.
The results were roughly similar when respondents were asked what the sentence should be if Trump were convicted in Manhattan. Most respondents said Trump should not go to jail and instead should receive either no jail time, probation, or a monetary penalty only (21%, 17%, and 22%, respectively).
In both cases, a clear partisan split was evident. In the DOJ’s case, 73% of Democrats believed Trump should go to jail if convicted, compared to 16% of Republicans and 33% of independents. In the case of the Manhattan district attorney, 65% of Democrats supported prison sentences, compared to 14% of Republicans and 36% of independents.
The results also complicate the post-indictment narrative that the charges improved Trump’s chances of winning his party’s presidential nomination. It’s true that he’s gained support in the polls since the indictments, but our survey suggests they haven’t fundamentally changed Republicans’ views of his campaign. While 21% of GOP respondents said the federal indictment for mishandling classified documents made them more likely to support Trump, 23% said it made them less likely; at least 50% said it had no impact and 6% said they didn’t know. The results were similar for the Manhattan prosecutor’s indictment for the silent payment.
Among the general public, a conviction in either case would hurt Trump’s electoral chances. An identical number — 41% of all respondents — said a conviction in the federal case or in the Manhattan prosecutor’s case would make them less likely to support the former president. Despite all the comments that he’s a Teflon Don, it’s clear that some of his missteps can cost him dearly.
The findings also suggest the numbers could get worse as Americans learn more about the pending charges. About a third of respondents said they were not particularly familiar with the allegations in either case.
This number may decrease as media coverage continues, particularly in the run-up to potential lawsuits. A trial date in the Manhattan prosecutor’s case is currently set to begin on March 25, though it’s conceivable that, in practice, Trump could have the nomination locked in by then if the dynamics of the GOP primary don’t. not change. So far, most of his opponents have struggled to articulate a message that stands apart from Trump while appealing to a voter base that remains largely loyal to him despite his growing legal troubles.
The public’s preference for a relatively quick trial date in the federal prosecution against Trump may prove difficult to accept. Many legal observers are skeptical of the possibility of a trial next year, especially given the complexity of a case involving classified documents and a defendant who has historically proven adept at putting in place strategies. aggressive delays.
Indeed, according to the most recent statistics available, the median time from filing to disposition in felony cases in the Southern District of Florida, where the federal case against Trump is ongoing, is nine months. But that number is almost surely dragged down by the fact that the vast majority of federal criminal cases are resolved by guilty pleas and that very few, if any, trials in the district have posed the kind of complexities that the whole first criminal prosecution against a former US president, involving in particular classified information.
Still, if prosecutors and the presiding judge want to turn to the law and satisfy the public interest, they can refer to the results of this poll.