Polls say a Trump conviction could cost him support. They are right?

Polls have been indicating for months that former President Trump could lose support among some Republicans if he is convicted of a crime. But if history is any guide, many of those fans will stick with him.

A Manhattan jury on Wednesday began deliberating 34 counts of falsifying business records related to his attempt to influence the 2016 campaign by concealing a payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

What do the surveys say?

An ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted this month found that 16% of Trump supporters would reconsider their support, while 4% would abandon him entirely if he is convicted of a felony.

A Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll conducted in seven swing states in January found that 9% of Republican-leaning voters would be unwilling to vote for Trump if he is convicted of a crime, while 14% of those voters said they would They would not be very willing to vote. for him.

Will those numbers hold?

Potential defectors in the ABC poll left themselves wiggle room by saying they would “reconsider” support rather than ruling it out entirely. And time often helps Trump win back his base after a scandal, as he and other Republicans argue that the process is rigged or that the alternative to Trump is worse.

Note that, although the questions differed, their numbers look better in the May ABC poll than they did in the January Bloomberg poll, when 14% of Republicans were more willing to write off Trump, saying they would not “ very willing” to support it. in the case of a conviction.

Will people leaving Trump defect to President Biden?

A USA Today/Suffolk poll conducted in March found that 14% of Trump supporters said they would leave him if he is convicted. But less than 1% would lean toward Biden. The majority, 7.5%, said they would move to a third party.

That could still indirectly help Biden because it would erode Trump's margins if he holds, according to David Paleologos, who runs the Suffolk poll.

How has Trump prepared his supporters for conviction?

Trump has been laying the groundwork with his supporters for months for a possible conviction, using two main tools. First, he has summoned a chorus of party bigwigs to the courtroom, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, to parrot his protests and signal loyalty at the highest levels of the Republican Party, a technique he has used in previous scandals. Second, he has continually criticized the judge and prosecutor and, briefly, even the jury to undermine the process and manage expectations that he might be convicted.

“Mother Teresa could not get over these accusations,” Trump said Wednesday.

The approach has helped Trump politically. Only 7% of Republicans believe he is receiving a fair trial, compared to 76% of Democrats, according to a USA Today/Suffolk poll conducted this month.

Haven't we seen this movie before?

Yes. Trump seemed doomed after the “Access Hollywood” tape became public in October 2016, to the point that he is now accused of hiding the payment to keep Daniels quiet about an alleged affair.

But party leaders and their base voters were able to move on and conclude that these were locker room talks or that the alternative, Hillary Clinton, was a worse choice.

A similar dynamic played out after the January 6 insurrection. Party leaders blamed Trump for what they characterized as a dark day in history in the immediate aftermath. But he escaped conviction in the Senate, with the help of Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and his support among Republican voters eventually recovered.

More than half of Republicans (51%) strongly disapproved of the actions of those who forcibly entered the Capitol in a January 2021 CBS/YouGov poll. Three years later, according to another CBS poll, only 32% He strongly disapproved of his actions. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans also supported clemency for those convicted of crimes related to the insurrection in the 2024 elections.

So could a conviction affect the election?

Maybe. If Trump loses in court, Biden and the rest of the country can call him a convicted felon from now until November.

And even a small number of Republicans and undecided voters can influence an election that is expected to be extremely close. The USA Today/Suffolk poll found that independent voters were evenly divided, 37% to 37%, on whether Trump's trial is fair or not, leaving more room for at least some voters to be swayed by a verdict.

“In a vacuum, this verdict could continue during the elections because it will be a conviction. It will be historic,” Paleologos said.

But at some point, other issues like the economy could crowd it out and some voters might feel like old news, he said.

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