Trump supporters warm toward legal immunity for ex-presidents

Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
May 03, 2024, 2:00 PM GMT+0

Americans' opinions about Donald Trump’s trial for allegedly paying hush money to cover up a relationship with a porn star haven't changed much since the trial began — though Trump supporters have become more likely to expect a conviction and also to support legal immunity for former presidents. Amid Trump's legal troubles and widespread disapproval of Joe Biden's presidency, the two leading presidential candidates remain effectively tied.

During the first weeks of Trump’s hush-money trial, his supporters' opinions have solidified: 70% of Trump supporters describe the case as not very or not at all serious in the most recent Economist/YouGov Poll, unchanged from the poll two weeks earlier, before the trial began. Also largely unchanged: By 44% to 38%, Americans are more likely to say Trump should be convicted in the case than to say he shouldn't — and by 34% to 26%, more likely to say he won’t be convicted than to say he will be. The share of Trump supporters who expect a conviction has risen to 20% from 14% two weeks ago.

Opinion has shifted slightly toward legal immunity for former presidents, particularly among Trump supporters. The share of registered voters who believe that presidents should not have immunity from being charged for actions taken while president is 60%, down from 66% in the poll two weeks earlier. Some Trump supporters have changed their opinion on this since the trial first began: In the poll two weeks earlier they were closely divided on the question, but now more say presidents should have immunity than say they shouldn't (47% vs. 31%).

Trump supporters also now are more likely to say that presidents do have immunity, by 39% to 28%; those figures were 34% and 32% in the poll two weeks earlier.

Meanwhile, significantly more Americans disapprove than approve of Biden's job performance — overall, and on particular issues. 37% strongly or somewhat approve of how he is handling his job overall, while on eight issues included in this week's poll, the percentage of Americans who approve of his work ranges from 29% on inflation to 39% on jobs and the economy.

The presidential election is close: Trump is the choice of 44% of registered voters while Biden receives support from 43%. More registered voters think Trump will win than think Biden will, by 44% to 36%.

Supporters of Biden and Trump are equally likely to say they will definitely vote in November — 86% among Biden supporters; 87% among Trump voters. Trump holds a lead in enthusiasm: 43% of his supporters are extremely enthusiastic about voting for president this year, compared with 33% of Biden supporters.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. receives 3% support nationwide as he seeks to qualify for the ballot in many states. Kennedy is drawing as much support among Republicans (2%) as among Democrats (2%), while faring slightly better (5%) among Independents.

Registered voters with positive feelings about Kennedy's candidacy greatly outnumber Kennedy supporters. 31% are satisfied or enthusiastic about Kennedy as a candidate even though just 3% say they'll vote for him.The picture is very different for Biden and Trump: Each candidate gets at least as much support as the share of registered voters who are satisfied or enthusiastic about each one.

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on April 28 - 30, 2024 among 1,755 U.S. adult citizens.

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 November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty