Most Americans say Trump taking classified materials to Florida is wrong

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
February 17, 2022, 9:08 PM GMT+0

Donald Trump was recently accused of having violated the Presidential Records Act — which requires presidents to preserve historically relevant materials — by taking 15 boxes of presidential files, including what may be classified documents, with him when he left office.

When we asked about Trump’s behavior in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, a majority of Americans (79%) — including Republicans (61%) and Democrats (91%) — say it would be more “wrong” than “right.”

Democrats are far more likely to see it as a serious problem than Republicans. Over nine in 10 Democrats (93%) say it would be a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem if Trump took classified documents with him to Florida after leaving office. Republicans are more split: 49% say it would be at least a “somewhat serious” problem and 51% say it would be a “not very serious” or “not at all serious” problem.

As a point of comparison, we asked how serious of a problem it is that Hillary Clinton used a personal email address to conduct government business. In this instance, 56% of Democrats say it is a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem, compared to 91% of Republicans. When we asked the same question in March of 2019, 73% of Democrats said Clinton’s use of a personal email address was a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem, compared to 81% of Republicans.

Six in 10 Americans say they’ve heard at least something about news reports claiming Trump took boxes of classified documents with him after leaving office, and the same number say they have heard that he destroyed official documents by ripping them up or flushing them down the toilet (a story which Trump has since denied). A majority of Republicans, however, say they have heard “nothing at all” about these allegations.

Before asking about the specifics of Trump and Clinton’s potential violations, we showed survey takers a general description of the Presidential Records Act, which we said “requires presidents to preserve all historically relevant material during their time in office and turn over historically relevant documents to government archives.” Seven in 10 Americans say they support the act and say it is important for presidents to follow this law, while only 10% oppose it and say it is not important for presidents to follow it.

Also in the news this week: Recent reporting suggests that Trump has told associates that he has remained in touch with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un since leaving office. When we asked Americans their opinions on this story, only 28% of Americans approved — including 12% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans. When asked more broadly about former presidents maintaining contact with foreign leaders, 30% say such behavior is unacceptable. Nearly one in four (23%) say it is acceptable, and 21% say it is only acceptable if the former president is communicating with a leader of a U.S. ally country.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between February 12 and February 15, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample.