More peril for Trump in pending probes than NY: AP-NORC poll

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has emerged largely unscathed politically from his New York indictment. But a new poll suggests that investigations in Georgia and Washington could prove more problematic.

Only 4 in 10 U.S. adults believe Trump acted illegally in New York, where he has been charged in connection with hush money payments made to women who alleged sexual encounters, according to the new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. More — about half — believe he broke the law in Georgia, where he is under investigation for interfering in the 2020 election vote count.

The poll finds about half feel similarly about his role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and his handling of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, which are both under investigation by the Justice Department.

The findings suggest potential future charges in those cases against Trump may resonate more deeply with the American public than his alleged cover-up of payments to porn actor Stormy Daniels and other women at the height of the 2016 campaign — charges that nearly 6 in 10 adults believe were politically motivated. While the case drew intense media coverage and made Trump the first former president in U.S. history to be charged criminally, legal experts have long argued that the other investigations pose far more serious potential risk.

The Georgia case, in particular, concerns even some longtime Trump supporters.

“I just feel like he kind of got himself involved in something that he shouldn’t have. I don’t know if it’s necessarily illegal, but just let the votes be the votes,” said Stephanie Trinidad, a Republican who lives in Dracut, Massachusetts, and voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020.

The poll offers further evidence that Trump has faced limited political fallout from the indictment, which instead proved a massive fundraising boon. His campaign has raised more than $15 million since news of the indictment broke — much from new donors — and he has rolled out a list of new endorsements.

While the poll finds only 30% of Americans, including 55% of Republicans, say they want Trump to run for president again in 2024, those numbers have changed little since an AP-NORC poll conducted in January. Trump’s favorability has also held constant: 34% of U.S. adults overall and 68% of Republicans say they have a favorable opinion of him, similar to three months ago.

Still, Trump, who remains the undisputed front-runner for the Republican nomination, would face substantial headwinds if he wins the Republican nomination. About half of Americans — 53% — say they will definitely not support him in the general election if he emerges as the GOP nominee, according to the poll.

When it comes to the New York case, the poll found 41% say Trump did something illegal. Thirty-three percent say they believe he did something unethical but not illegal. Only a small minority — 14% — say he did nothing wrong.

A majority of Americans – 57% — say Trump’s indictment in the case was justified, the poll shows, but just as many say they believe the charges were politically motivated.

They include Gino Lentine, a loyal Trump supporter from Akron, Ohio, who said he doesn’t “give two hoots” about the case.

“If you’re going to lock up every guy in the world — and every girl — who cheated on their spouse and paid them off, you’re going to have to lock up the whole country,” said Lentine, 57.

“In my book, he’s innocent — well, maybe guilty, but who cares?” he said. “Who cares if he spent $100,000? Nobody cares. It’s costing me $100,000 to put gas in my car. Come on.”

The poll’s New York findings represents a rosier picture for Trump than in Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been investigating whether Trump and his allies illegally meddled in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. The foreperson of a special grand jury convened to hear evidence in the case said the panel recommended that Willis indict over a dozen people, including possibly Trump, who was recorded asking state election officials to “find 11,780 votes” to help him win. It is now up to Willis to decide whether to pursue charges.

But already in the Georgia case, the poll finds 53% say they think Trump broke the law. Twelve percent say he did something they consider unethical but not illegal, while 17% said he did nothing wrong.

Trinidad, 36, said she sees the flurry of investigations Trump faces as a politically motivated distraction aimed at keeping him from winning the White House again. But when it comes to the Georgia case, she said, “I just feel it is a little bit different.”

“Once you start getting into our voting system and counts, then I start to get a little wary because that’s literally our right as an American citizen. So once you start to fiddle with that, it sort of becomes a little bit more of an issue for me, personally,” she said, adding that she hasn’t thought much yet about whom she plans to support in 2024.

In the federal cases, about half of Americans — 47% — believe Trump acted illegally in his handling of classified documents, while 49% say he broke the law in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. About 2 in 10 say they think he did something unethical but not illegal in those cases, and close to that many say they think he did nothing wrong.

The poll makes clear that Americans’ views of the investigations are deeply partisan. In the Georgia case, 86% of Democrats but just 22% of Republicans say they think Trump did something illegal. In the New York case, 68% of Democrats and 13% of Republicans say they think he broke the law.

Meanwhile, 9 in 10 Democrats but only a quarter of Republicans say they think the indictment in the New York case was justified. Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans — but only about a third of Democrats — say they think the charges were politically motivated.

That includes Nicole Sawyer, a registered independent from Middletown, Pennsylvania, who typically backs Democrats and praises President Joe Biden. While she believes Trump has done “a lot of immoral things” that are worth investigating, she also sees the probes as driven by politics.

“I think people are sort of just throwing stuff at him, anything they can,” said Sawyer, 45, who views the investigations as a distraction from more important issues, like Social Security and health care. Those issues, she said, are “kind of being overshadowed with all this drama with Trump.”

Still, Sawyer said that if Trump is found guilty, “he doesn’t deserve to be our president.”

“I think that kids should be able to look up to the president of America and not have a whole bunch of drama overshadowing the real things that need to be taken care of,” she said.

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Colvin reported from New York.

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The poll of 1,230 adults was conducted April 13-17 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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