New polling from the Economist and YouGov examines what Americans think about recent controversies surrounding classified documents found in the possession of Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Mike Pence. The results show that majorities in both major political parties believe former presidents taking classified materials with them after leaving office is a serious matter. And while only one in four Americans believe that former Vice President Pence intentionally took documents, many more think that former President Trump and President Biden did. (The Biden documents that have been identified are linked to his vice presidency.) In regard to each man's level of cooperation in returning the documents, more say that Biden and Pence have been cooperative than say the same about Trump.
Were classified documents taken intentionally by Trump, Biden, and Pence?
More Americans believe that classified documents were intentionally taken by Trump (56%) or by Biden (43%) than think the same of Pence (25%). And while opinions on Trump and Biden are highly polarized — with members of each party being less likely to say the most recent president from their own party took documents on purpose — views on Pence are less divided, with just 21% of Republicans and 32% of Democrats saying he took documents on purpose.
Have Trump, Biden, and Pence been cooperative in returning the documents they took?
Far fewer see Trump as having cooperated in returning the documents (26%) than believe that Biden (43%) or Pence (46%) have. Here, too, views of Pence's actions are far less linked to party affiliation than opinions on Biden and Trump are.
Is one's offense worse than the other's?
Do Americans believe Biden and Trump taking classified documents with them was about the same and should be treated similarly, or do they believe one offense was more serious than the other? Most Democrats (62%) believe one offense was more serious — 57% say Trump's was more serious; 5% say Biden's — while just 24% believe they are about the same. Most Republicans (51%), on the other hand, say the two situations are the same, while 36% say one is worse than the other: 31% say Biden's is worse and 4% say Trump's is. Among Americans overall, more think Trump's offense was worse than Biden's (29%) than say the opposite (17%); 37% think they're about the same, and 17% aren't sure.
— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article
Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.
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