Searching for Clues in the Polls About a Trump Conviction

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Searching for Clues in the Polls About a Trump Conviction


For nearly a decade, Donald J. Trump did, said and survived things that would have doomed any other politician.

After four indictments last year – including the charge of falsifying business records, of which he was finally found guilty on Thursday – he even saw an increase in support.

The polls cannot tell us how voters will react to the unprecedented ruling. Most voters haven’t even paid much attention to the process, and it’s always difficult to ask voters for hypotheses. Given his track record of political resilience, there is certainly little reason to believe that his loyal MAGA base will suddenly collapse following a guilty verdict – or even incarceration. It’s possible he won’t lose any support at all.

But in a close election in a sharply divided country, any losses could be crucial. While Mr. Trump has weathered much controversy, he has also faced political punishment for his behavior. Ultimately, he lost re-election. And in this cycle, there is reason to wonder whether Mr. Trump may be more vulnerable now: He relies on the support of many young and nonwhite voters who have not voted for him in the past and who may not prove as loyal like those who stood by his side from the beginning.

Over the past six months, many pollsters have asked voters to consider the hypothetical scenario in which Mr. Trump would be convicted in court. It is important to emphasize that these survey results should not be interpreted as simulations of how voters will behave after a conviction in the real world. The questions do not reflect how voters will respond to the full context and facts of the case, to Republican statements of support, or to Fox News coverage. Instead, they place a hypothetical conviction right in front of the defendant’s face.

Still, the results show that a significant number of Trump’s supporters are understandably unhappy with the idea of ​​supporting a criminal. This is a line that Mr. Trump has never crossed, and a portion of his supporters were even willing to tell a pollster that they would vote for President Biden if Mr. Trump were found guilty.

In New York Times/Siena College polls in October, about 7 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters said they would vote for Mr. Biden if Mr. Trump were found guilty in an unspecified criminal case. That may not seem like a large number, but in our time of close elections, such a number would be crucial. Recently, a Marquette Law School poll during the hush money trial found that Mr. Trump’s modest lead among registered voters nationwide would turn into a four-point Biden lead if Mr. Trump were found guilty.

To reiterate, these results should not be interpreted as an indication of what will happen after this conviction. And even if his numbers decline, many voters could ultimately choose Mr. Trump again — particularly Republicans or those who believe the case against him was “rigged.” In the Times/Inquirer/Siena polls earlier this month, voters were divided over whether Mr. Trump could get a fair trial. His allies will do everything they can to convince voters he didn’t get one.

But Mr. Trump isn’t just counting on the support of Republicans and MAGA loyalists in the conservative information ecosystem. His strength in the polls increasingly depends on the surprising strength of voters from traditionally Democratic constituencies, including young, non-white and irregular voters. Many of these voters are registered Democrats, support Democrats in the US Senate race and may even have supported Mr Biden in the last election. This is not the core of Mr. Trump’s demonstrated support. This is a group of voters whose loyalty has not yet been proven – let alone tested.

The Times/Siena and Marquette Law polls both suggest that these young and non-white voters may be particularly prone to revert to their traditional partisan leanings if convicted, with Mr. Biden back to a far more typical lead among young and non-white voters voters. In fact, when voters are asked how they would vote if Mr. Trump were convicted, almost all of the unusual demographic patterns among young, nonwhite and irregular voters disappear.

In the Times/Siena poll, 21 percent of Mr. Trump’s young supporters said they would support Mr. Biden if there was a conviction. By comparison, only 2 percent of Trump supporters 65 and older said the same. Likewise, 27 percent of black voters who supported Mr. Trump switched to Mr. Biden, compared to just 5 percent of white respondents.

In the real world, the ruling may or may not revive Mr. Biden’s support among young and nonwhite voters. But with Mr. Trump counting on the support of so many voters who wouldn’t normally be expected to support him, the stage may be in place to help Mr. Biden.

On the one hand, the voters did not expect this. In a Times/Siena poll during the trial earlier this month, only 35 percent of voters in battleground states expected Mr. Trump to be found guilty. A majority of 53 percent expected him to be found not guilty.

And voters hadn’t paid much attention. Only 29 percent of voters said they were paying “a lot” of attention to the trial, and they were disproportionately Biden supporters. Only 10 percent of young voters (18 to 29) said they were paying attention.

With so many voters doubting a conviction and withdrawing altogether, the verdict could come as surprising news to millions. That doesn’t mean that young and non-white, traditionally Democratic voters will support Mr. Biden, but it seems more likely than if they were already paying attention and expecting it.

One of the better explanations for Mr. Trump’s strength among disinterested voters is that he has benefited from not being in the news — that his political commitments have faded from voters’ consciousness.

That may no longer be true. Whether these voters will turn away from Mr. Trump and whether such a turn will be permanent will likely remain unclear for some time. But in such a close race, anything could be enough to make the difference.



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2024-05-31 02:06:46

www.nytimes.com