On Donald Trump's indictment, do Americans agree with prominent statements — or their opposites?

Linley SandersData Journalist
Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
April 04, 2023, 7:29 PM GMT+0

On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump turned himself in to the Manhattan district attorney and pleaded not guilty to felony charges over his involvement in alleged hush-money payments to a porn star. Trump has called the indictment "an attack on our country, the likes of which has never been seen before." Other Republicans have said the indictment is "more about revenge than it is about justice" or chalked it up to "some bookkeeping error from seven years ago."

YouGov asked 1,000 U.S. adult citizens whether they agree or disagree with seven recent statements about Trump's indictment, each made by a politician or public official. For each statement, people were randomly shown either a direct quote or paraphrase of the statement, or an invented statement inverting the original statement. This is designed to test support for each idea while also accounting for acquiescence bias, or the phenomenon of respondents being more likely to agree than to disagree with a statement presented to them, all else equal.

The results reflect many interconnected factors: U.S. political polarization, the charges against Trump, appetite for political hyperbole, and a bias toward agreement. Polarization was evident in Democrats being far more likely than Republicans to support the charges against Trump and related sentiments. However, Trump and the charges against him aren't subjects of consensus among Republicans: Significant minorities agree with statements critical of Trump and favorable toward the case against him.

Among Trump supporters and opponents, extreme statements get broad support — 43% of Americans strongly or somewhat agree that the indictment is an unprecedented attack on the U.S., while 45% agree that Trump's actions that led to the indictment are an unprecedented attack on the country. And party and details aside, 10 of 14 statements got more agreement than disagreement, even though each one's inverse was included in the poll: People tend to be agreeable, in a polling setting and otherwise.

Original Quote: "This is an attack on our country the likes of which has never been seen before." – Donald Trump

Americans are divided on whether "an attack on our country, the likes of which has never been seen before" has occurred — whether it's a description of the indictment, or of Trump's actions that led to the indictment.

Original Quote: "I think that offends the notion of the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe in fairness, who believe in equal treatment before the law, and this appears to be just one more example of the kind of two-tiered justice system that the American people have had enough of.” – Mike Pence

About as many Americans agree as disagree that the indictment offends Americans' notion of fairness — but by 59% to 27%, Americans are more likely to agree than disagree that the indictment upholds that notion of fairness. Four in five Democrats (80%) agree the indictment upholds the notion, as do 38% of Republicans.

Original Quote: "This is more about revenge than it is about justice." – Nikki Haley

Republicans overwhelmingly agree with Haley, by 81% to 15%. Some of that likely is acquiescence bias, as 27% of Republicans agree that the indictment is more about justice than revenge; 68% disagree. Overall, Haley's statement and its inverse get roughly equal support.

Original Quote: "The 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has been indicted by a Grand Jury in New York following District Attorney Alvin Bragg's irresponsible and politically-motivated efforts to take him down. A sad day for America." – Rudy Giuliani

Americans are more likely than not to say it was a sad day for America — and more likely than not to say it was a happy day. Perhaps it reflects a mix of acquiescence bias and some mixed feelings, particularly among Democrats: while 72% say it is a happy day and just 19% disagree, 41% say it is a sad day and 49% disagree.

Original Quote: "And then what changed? President Trump announces he’s running for president and shazam! Now they are — we’re going to have some bookkeeping error from seven years ago." – Jim Jordan

Jordan's comment was the least likely of the ones polled for Americans to agree with. Even among his fellow Republicans, just 42% agreed while 24% disagreed. Possibly the specific nature of the claim led to low levels of agreement: More Americans (26%) were unsure about this statement than any other. Americans are more certain about the inverse: 57% agree that the Trump indictment is about more than a bookkeeping error from seven years ago, and just 24% disagree.

Original Quote: "This is one of the most irresponsible decisions in American history by any prosecutor." – Lindsey Graham

Hyperbole is popular again on the topic of the responsibility of Manhattan district attorney Alvin L. Bragg. Graham did couch his statement with "one of," and 41% of Americans agree Bragg's indictment of Trump is one of the most irresponsible decisions ever by an American prosecutor, while 50% agree it is one of the most responsible. For each statement significant percentages of Americans cross party lines — 24% of Democrats agree with the irresponsibility of the indictment and 31% of Republicans agree with the responsibility — perhaps because of genuine conflicts within each party or perhaps because of how similar the words "responsible" and "irresponsible" are.

Original Quote: "The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American." – Ron DeSantis

Americans are more likely to call Trump's actions that led to his indictment un-American, than they are to agree that the indictment itself is un-American.

— Taylor Orth contributed to this article

See the results from this YouGov poll conducted on March 31 - April 4, 2023

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on March 31 - April 4, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. 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 March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty Images (Kena Betancur)