CNN Poll: Most Americans want verdict on Trump election subversion charges before 2024 vote

Carlos Barria/Reuters/File

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Reno, Nevada, in December 2023.


Most Americans want to see a verdict on the federal charges former President Donald Trump faces related to election subversion in 2020 before this year’s presidential election, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. And looking ahead, most expect Trump to pardon himself of any federal crimes he’s convicted of if he wins the presidency – or to refuse to concede if he loses in November.

About half of Americans, 48%, say it’s essential that a verdict is reached before the 2024 presidential election, and another 16% that they’d prefer to see one. Just 11% say that a trial on the charges should be postponed until following the election, with another quarter saying the trial’s timing doesn’t matter to them. A 72% majority of Democrats and 52% of independents say it’s essential that a verdict is reached pre-election. Republicans are more split. While 38% say that a verdict should be reached before the presidential election, including 20% who call that essential, another 39% say it doesn’t matter when the trial is held, and 23% that they think the trial should be held after this election.

Trump currently faces four separate criminal indictments, including federal charges related to his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The trial date in that case, originally set for March 4, was postponed Friday, after the survey was conducted.

Some aspects of the case are likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court. Only 42% of Americans express a great deal or a moderate amount of trust in the Supreme Court to make the right decisions on any legal cases related to the 2024 election, with 35% saying they have just some trust in the court, and 23% that they have none at all. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to express at least a moderate amount of trust (52% to 36%). Among those who see a pre-election verdict in the federal Trump election subversion case as essential, just 35% express trust in the Supreme Court on election-related cases.

Views of Trump’s efforts to remain president following the 2020 election remain effectively unchanged from where they stood a year and a half ago amid public hearings on the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol: 45% say he acted illegally, 32% unethically, and 23% that he dd nothing wrong at all. An 80% majority of Democrats say he acted illegally. About half of Republicans (49%) say Trump did nothing wrong following the last presidential election, with 40% saying his actions were unethical, and just 11% that they were illegal.

Trump could face his first criminal trial beginning this March. In New York, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is set to take him to trial in late March for allegedly falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election.

It’s still not clear if prosecutors will be able to take Trump to trial before this year’s election in his two federal criminal cases. His 2020 election subversion case in Washington, DC, is currently on hold pending an appeals’ court ruling on presidential immunity – setting up court action that could push the trial back for months and prompting the trial judge on Friday to cancel an early spring start date. Court proceedings in his case around his alleged mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after the presidency are currently focused around the use of classified evidence in the case. A trial is on the schedule for late May but may need to be moved back because of those proceedings. The judge, a Trump appointee in south Florida, has left open the possibility of revisiting the trial schedule at a hearing on March 1.

The state-level judge presiding over Trump’s 2020 election conspiracy case in Georgia has yet to set a trial date.

Americans broadly agree on what to expect from Trump after this year’s general election, regardless of whether it ends in his victory or defeat. If he’s nominated by the Republican Party and loses, most believe that he’ll once again refuse to concede. And if he wins, most expect he’ll try to use the power of the White House to pardon himself for any convictions on federal crimes; launch federal investigations of his political rivals; and enact a number of sweeping and largely unpopular policy changes, including deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, undoing the Affordable Care Act and purging the federal workforce of civil servants who oppose his policies.

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The vast majority of the public continues to support the basic principle that American political candidates should accept the results of US elections. Eighty-six percent say that the loser of a presidential election has an obligation to concede once the results are certified, unchanged from when Trump and President Joe Biden were facing off in October 2020.

Fewer expect that Trump would be willing to concede a loss now than did so in 2020. Just 25% of Americans say they expect him to accept the results if he loses in November as the Republican nominee, down from 37% in October 2020. By contrast, 76% of Americans expect that Biden would concede if he loses, similar to the 71% who said the same four years ago.

Most of Trump’s current supporters say the loser of a presidential election does have an obligation to concede, but they largely don’t believe that Trump himself would admit defeat if he loses. Among registered voters who say they’d support Trump in a rematch against Biden, 78% say losing candidates ought to concede, but 54% say they doubt Trump would concede a loss – 38% say both that losing candidates have an obligation to concede and that Trump would be unlikely to do so. Another 21% of Trump supporters say there’s no responsibility for the loser to concede, with most in that group also expecting him to deny the results if he loses. By contrast, just 4% of Biden’s current supporters say that losers of presidential elections aren’t obligated to concede.

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If Trump does secure a return to the White House in November, he’s said that he’ll wield his executive power to implement sweeping changes in a second term. And Americans broadly expect him to try to carry out many of the facets of the agenda he’s publicly outlined. Most say they believe that, if reelected, Trump would try to detain and deport millions of undocumented immigrants (89%), fire federal workers who oppose implementing his policies (82%), pardon himself for any federal crimes he’s convicted of (78%), repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (77%), pardon most people convicted over their role in the January 6 attack (77%) and direct the Department of Justice to investigate political rivals (74%).

There’s some partisan variation in expectations: 88% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, for instance, think Trump would send the Justice Department after his rivals, while a smaller 60% majority of Republican and Republican-leaning independents believe he’d do so. But broad majorities across party lines expect him to attempt each of the six actions included in the survey. Even among people who say they’re paying little or no attention to the presidential campaign, the vast majority think Trump is likely to try to do each of those things.

None of those second-term agenda items are particularly popular with the public. About half (48%) of Americans say they’d favor Trump attempting a mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and 39% that they’d favor repealing and replacing the ACA. Roughly one-third or fewer want to see him fire federal workers who oppose his policies (34%), direct the DOJ to investigate rivals (31%), pardon people convicted over January 6 (31%) or pardon himself (28%).

Within the GOP, however, those ideas are more popular, with most saying they’d favor Trump using the presidency to pardon himself and investigate rivals.  A 78% majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they’d favor Trump deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, 68% would favor him repealing and replacing the ACA, and 62% would favor him firing federal workers. Smaller majorities say they’d favor Trump pardoning himself (54%), issuing pardons to people involved in the January 6 attacks (54%) or opening investigations into his rivals (51%).

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS from January 25-30 among a random national sample of 1,212 adults drawn from a probability-based panel. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results among the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. For results among the 983 registered voters surveyed, the error margin is plus or minus 3.8 points.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Nicholas Anastácio contributed to this report.

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