A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that just 23% of Americans believe that Donald Trump should be allowed to serve as president again if convicted of a “serious” crime.
A full 62%, meanwhile, say Trump should not be allowed to serve again in that scenario.
The survey of 1,520 U.S. adults, which was conducted May 25 to May 30, underscores the political peril facing the former president as his legal troubles pile up. In April, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments made to a porn star during his 2016 presidential campaign; Trump’s criminal trial in that case is set to begin next March, right in the middle of the GOP primary calendar.
Over the coming months, prosecutors in Georgia and Washington, D.C., might also indict Trump for taking highly classified documents from the White House or trying to overturn the 2020 election.
Yet while the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll suggests that criminal convictions in these cases could make it very challenging for Trump to defeat President Biden in the 2024 November general election, the numbers also indicate that Trump could still easily win the Republican nomination even if he’s found guilty.
To gauge the potential political repercussions of Trump’s criminal cases, Yahoo News and YouGov didn’t just ask if being convicted of a serious crime should prevent Trump from serving again; respondents were also asked which (if any) of the possible charges against the former president they would consider to be “serious crimes” in the first place.
The results are striking. Across the board, majorities of Americans say that each of the key charges Trump could reportedly face qualify as “serious crimes.”
Where Trump is most vulnerable
A full two-thirds (66%) say that “conspiring to overturn the results of a presidential election” is a serious crime. Nearly as many say the same about “inciting or aiding an insurrection against the federal government” (64%); “taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them” (63%); and “attempting to obstruct the certification of a presidential election” (63%).
A smaller majority (52%) says that “falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments to a porn star” constitutes a serious crime.
In each instance, these numbers are a few percentage points higher among registered voters.
The problem for Trump, then, is clear. Most Americans (52%) and voters (55%) already think he has “committed a serious crime at [some] time in his life.” Even more say that the alleged election- and document-related offenses for which he is currently under investigation would qualify as “serious crimes” — and that he shouldn’t be allowed back into the White House if convicted of that sort of lawbreaking.
Conversely, only about 1 in 5 Americans says the opposite: that the potential charges against Trump aren’t serious crimes or that he should be allowed to serve again if found guilty.
Most Republicans still want Trump to be their nominee
It’s possible, of course, that Trump won’t be charged with anything or that he won’t be convicted before the 2024 election (or ever). And it’s likely that even if he is, partisanship and polarization would immediately shatter any tentative consensus over criminal convictions and the presidency.
Still, it would be a heavy lift to win a general election while under indictment or on trial for crimes that more than 6 in 10 voters currently consider disqualifying.
Winning the Republican nomination, however, would probably be much easier, according to the poll. Right now, roughly half of potential GOP primary voters would rather see Trump as their nominee (52%) than “someone else” (36%). The former president’s lead over his strongest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has increased to nearly 30 points over the last few months — even as (or perhaps because) Trump’s legal jeopardy has grown.
At the same time, Trump is even more dominant in hypothetical head-to-head matchups against other declared, likely or potential GOP candidates, leading South Carolina Gov. Tim Scott, 69% to 18%; former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, 70% to 18%; former Vice President Mike Pence, 73% to 16%; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 77% to 10%; and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, 72% to 10%.
Could a 'serious' criminal indictment or conviction change this dynamic?
It’s a long shot. A plurality of potential GOP primary voters (46%) already say that Trump should be allowed to serve again even if he’s convicted of something they consider a serious crime. Against a divided field, that’s probably enough support to win him the nomination. (Trump earned about 45% of the primary vote in 2016.)
On the flip side, only 37% of potential GOP primary voters say Trump should not be allowed to serve again if convicted of a serious crime. That sounds like a substantial minority — but in reality, it includes just 19% of those who currently back Trump against the full GOP field and just 20% of those who support Trump in a hypothetical one-on-one matchup with DeSantis.
In other words, Trump might still lead even if he lost all the potential GOP primary voters who now support him but also say serious crimes would be disqualifying.
Making matters worse for DeSantis & Co. is that Trump almost certainly wouldn’t lose all those voters. Why? Because only about 10% to 12% of them believe that the potential charges against Trump — attempting to obstruct the certification of a presidential election, for instance, or taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them — actually constitute the sort of serious crimes they would consider disqualifying.
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,520 U.S. adults interviewed online from May 25 to 30, 2023. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (32% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.