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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Only 1 in 3 US Adults Think Trump Acted Illegally in NY Hush Money Case

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By: Thomas Beaumont & Amelia Thomson-Deveaux

The first criminal trial facing former President Donald Trump is also the one in which Americans are least convinced he committed a crime, a new AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds.

Only about one-third of U.S. adults say Trump did something illegal in the hush money case for which jury selection began Monday, while close to half think he did something illegal in the other three criminal cases pending against him. And they’re fairly skeptical that Trump is getting a fair shake from the prosecutors in the case — or that the judge and jurors can be impartial in cases involving him.

Still, half of Americans would consider Trump unfit to serve as president if he is convicted of falsifying business documents to cover up hush money payments to a woman who said he had an affair with her.

While a New York jury will decide whether to convict Trump of felony charges, public opinion of the trial proceedings could hurt him politically. The poll suggests a conviction could hurt Trump’s campaign. Trump enters a rematch with President Joe Biden as the first presumptive nominee of a major party — and the first former president — to be under indictment. A verdict is expected in roughly six weeks, well before the Republican National Convention where he will accept the GOP nomination.

Trump has made the prosecutions against him a centerpiece of his campaign and argued without evidence that Biden engineered the cases. That argument helped him consolidate GOP support during the Republican primary, but a conviction might influence how many Americans — including independent voters and people long skeptical of Trump — perceive his candidacy.

“Any conviction should disqualify him,” said Callum Schlumpf, a 31-year-old engineering student and political independent from Clifton, Texas. “It sets a bad example to the rest of the world. I think it misrepresents us, as a country, as to what we believe is important and virtuous.”

Yet, a cloud of doubt hangs over all the proceedings. Only about 3 in 10 Americans feel that any of the prosecutors who have brought charges against Trump are treating the former president fairly. And only about 2 in 10 Americans are extremely or very confident that the judges and jurors in the cases against him can be fair and impartial.

“It’s very obvious political persecution,” said Christopher Ruff, a 46-year-old political independent and museum curator from Sanford, North Carolina. “I’m no fan of Trump in any way, shape or form. Didn’t vote for him, never will. But it’s obviously all political.”

Consistent with AP-NORC polls conducted over the past year, the new poll found that about half of Americans say Trump did something illegal regarding the classified documents found at his Florida home, and a similar share think he did something illegal regarding his alleged attempt to interfere in Georgia’s vote count in the 2020 presidential election. The poll also found that nearly half of Americans believe he did something illegal related to his effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Prosecutors in New York will argue that Trump falsified his company’s internal records to hide the true nature of a payment to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen. Cohen alleges he was directed by Trump to pay adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 one month before the 2016 election to silence her claims about an extramarital affair with Trump.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the 34-count indictment and denied any affair with Daniels.

The poll found that 35% of Americans say Trump has done something illegal with regard to the hush money allegations. Slightly fewer, about 3 in 10, think he did something unethical without breaking the law. Fourteen percent think he did nothing wrong at all. Those numbers haven’t shifted meaningfully in the year since he was first charged in the case.


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