Fewer Voters Think Trump Committed Crimes, Polls Show

Late last year, it seemed likely that former President Donald J. Trump would spend part of the 2024 campaign facing at least one, if not multiple, criminal trials. As he was charged with more crimes and as the trial dates drew closer, the share of voters who said he had committed crimes ticked up.

The Trump team has pushed to stall the trials as much as possible, hoping to delay any verdicts until after the general election in November. Beyond that, his team has tried to wring the indictments for any political advantage it could find.

The tactics may be paying off. The share of Americans who say that Mr. Trump committed serious federal crimes, steadily on the rise since the fall of 2022, has declined since December, the latest New York Times/Siena College poll found.

Voters across the political spectrum are now less likely to say that Mr. Trump acted criminally. Democrats are 7 percentage points less likely to say that they think Mr. Trump committed crimes, while the share of political independents who said the same is down 9 percentage points. Republicans have remained relatively stable, only ticking down one point since the end of last year.

In December, Mr. Trump’s civil cases dominated the headlines and he faced gag orders limiting his speech. But the drumbeat of legal developments has slowed in some cases and turned in Mr. Trump’s favor in others as he awaits word from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether he is immune from prosecution.

Mr. Trump’s team was thrilled by the delay in his federal election interference trial, which many of his advisers see as the one with the most potential to be politically damaging. And while they are not looking forward to the prospect of being in court later this month in New York, they are less concerned that the specifics in the case will hurt him with voters, who they think have become inured to reports about his personal behavior.

“Trump’s trials don’t really impact my vote,” said Holly Call, 35, who plans to vote for Mr. Trump in the fall. “Some of the charges are unwarranted, and for some of the charges, other people have done the same things and have not been tried. There are some things that he might be guilty of — they’re not serious crimes.”

Ms. Call, a stay-at-home mother from Newton, Utah, said that she would have preferred to vote for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida or one of Mr. Trump’s other Republican opponents, but that she was supporting the former president because of his conservative values.

Still, 21 percent of Republicans — including an identical share of Trump supporters — said that their party’s likely nominee had committed serious federal crimes.

Even among Democrats, the share who said that Mr. Trump acted criminally has slipped. While a vast majority — 85 percent — still said he had committed crimes, that is down from 92 percent in December.

These shifts have not necessarily translated into more support for Mr. Trump. Instead, the share saying he acted criminally who said they planned to vote for another candidate — or not vote if the choices were only Mr. Trump or his likely opponent, President Biden — has gone up.

Joseph Kozinski, who describes himself as a political moderate, says he does not think that Mr. Trump has committed crimes. He has not made up his mind about whom he plans to support in November, but he’s concerned that “they’re trying to piece things together that aren’t here” he said, adding, “They’re charging him with things that other people would never be charged with.”

“I’d think if there was something substantial, by all means, that should be taken up in court. But some of the things are being invented right now,” said Mr. Kozinski, 61, a retiree from Jasper County, S.C.

Mr. Trump is set to go on trial on March 25 in a New York State court on allegations he falsified business records to cover up hush-money payments to a porn actress during the 2016 campaign. Another state case, in Fulton County, Ga., which alleges crimes committed in his efforts to stay in office, has become mired in questions about the duration of a romantic relationship between the district attorney, Fani Willis, and the prosecutor she appointed to the case, Nathan Wade.

The penalty in the hush-money case could include jail time. But compared with the national import of the two federal cases that Mr. Trump is facing — he stands accused of breaking laws in trying to subvert his 2020 election loss and of hoarding reams of classified materials at his private club in Florida and stymying efforts to retrieve them — the New York case has been seen as less weighty.

If Mr. Trump is elected again, he is expected to work toward getting the government to drop the federal cases against him, or to possibly try to pardon himself. He would not be able to do so with the state cases, raising questions about what would happen if he wins the 2024 race after he has been convicted in New York and ultimately sentenced to prison.

Just 32 percent of Americans saw the charges in the New York hush-money case as “very serious” in a September poll conducted by Quinnipiac, compared with 56 percent who said the same about the federal election interference trial. The poll, taken before Ms. Willis’s testimony captured headlines, also showed 54 percent saying that charges in the Georgia trial were very serious.

Mr. Trump has characterized all four cases — as well as two civil actions in New York — as a “witch hunt” and has baselessly accused Mr. Biden of spearheading them. The civil fraud trial against Mr. Trump and his company that just concluded with an enormous financial judgment has its origins well before Mr. Biden even declared his 2020 presidential campaign.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump has used repetition over the course of the past eight years in political life to dull some of the reactions to him and his actions, and to his critics’ accusations. And he has spent months describing the legal actions aimed at holding him accountable as “weaponization” of government.

At his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday, Mr. Trump held a brief news conference to celebrate a U.S. Supreme Court decision saying that officials in Colorado could not remove him from the primary ballot. A case in state courts there had accused Mr. Trump of engaging in “insurrection,” which, under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, would disqualify him from holding office.

But Mr. Trump also used the opportunity to attack all the prosecutions, and Mr. Biden. After calling the sprawl of indictments and civil actions against him all part of a “rigged” system, Mr. Trump insisted that the public saw it that way.

“I’m lucky in that I’m able to explain it to the public,” Mr. Trump said, “because if you weren’t able to explain it the public wouldn’t know. They’d believe what they see.”


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