Snap poll: 50% of Americans approve of Trump's hush-money conviction

David MontgomerySenior data journalist
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
May 31, 2024, 4:17 AM GMT+0

Half of Americans agree with a Manhattan jury's verdict that Donald Trump was guilty of 34 felony charges related to falsifying business records to cover up an alleged affair with an adult film actress. Another 30% disagree, and 19% of Americans aren't sure, in a YouGov snap poll conducted hours after the verdict Thursday.

Americans' immediate reactions are polarized along party lines, with 86% of Democrats but just 15% of Republicans believing the former president is guilty of felony charges. Independents are nearly twice as likely to think he's guilty as to think he's not.

Opinion is slightly more closely divided on whether Trump's trial was fair, with 47% of Americans saying it was and 37% saying it wasn't. Most Democrats but few Republicans think it was fair.

About two-thirds of Americans (65%) say Trump has either probably or definitely ever committed any crimes, while 26% say he probably or definitely hasn't. Democrats overwhelmingly think Trump has probably committed crimes, while Republicans are divided, with 40% saying yes and 50% saying no.

But few Americans of any political identity expect Trump will ever go to prison. 63% say he probably or definitely won't go to prison, compared to 20% who say he probably or definitely will. Democrats are the most likely political grouping to expect Trump to go to prison, but even among them, 33% say he will be imprisoned and 54% say he won't.

As news of Trump's conviction sets in, many are unsure whether the verdict will withstand a possible appeal — which Trump will most likely seek. Among those with an opinion, slightly more think the conviction will be overturned than think it won't. One group with some consensus on the matter is people who believe the trial was unfair: 68% of them expect the verdict to be overturned, compared to 16% of people who believe it was a fair trial.

Nearly 80% of Americans say the conviction hasn't changed their minds about the presidential election: Either they were already opposed to Trump and still are (46%), or they were already supporting Trump and still do (32%). Another 13% aren't sure.

But some voters said the verdict did change their minds. 3% of U.S. adults say they weren't planning on voting for Trump but are after the conviction. 5% say they were previously planning on voting for Trump but now are not.

Americans who follow news of public affairs "only now and then" are particularly likely to say the verdict caused them to stop supporting Trump.

YouGov has been tracking Americans' opinions about Trump's hush-money trial since it began in mid-April. Here's what Americans have said they think about this unprecedented case:

Few Americans expected Trump to be convicted

Just 23% of U.S. adult citizens thought Trump would be convicted of a crime in his hush-money case in the latest May 25 - 28 Economist/YouGov Poll. 36% thought he would be acquitted and 40% weren't sure. This is in line with Americans' expectations throughout the trial.

While Democrats were more likely than Republicans to expect a conviction, most Democrats either thought Trump would be acquitted or weren't sure.

The 23% of Americans who thought Trump would be convicted is half the 46% share who said Trump should be found guilty, prior to the announcement of the verdict. While many Democrats didn't think Trump would be convicted, most (85%) said he should be. Only 10% of Republicans agreed while an overwhelming majority (79%) said Trump should not be convicted.

These views weren't driven by how much attention Americans were paying to the trial. More U.S. adult citizens said Trump should be convicted than said he shouldn't be — among all of them and also in each of three groups: those who followed the trial "a lot," "a little," and not at all. Americans who followed the trial less closely were more likely to not have a strong opinion about whether Trump should be convicted.

Many doubted a conviction will hurt Trump politically

In a separate poll conducted a week before the verdict, just 34% of Americans thought a conviction in the hush-money case would have a very or somewhat negative impact on Trump's political career. That's less than the other three criminal cases Trump is facing, for mishandling classified documents, attempting to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, and actions related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Only 18% of Republicans thought a hush-money conviction would hurt Trump, compared to 52% of Democrats.

60% of Americans would rank the hush-money case as the least important of the four cases against Trump. Just 26% describe the hush-money charges as very serious, compared to nearly half who describe each of the other three cases as very serious.

Many Americans say that in theory, a felony conviction is a bad thing for a presidential candidate. Before the verdict, only 14% of U.S. adult citizens said a convicted felon should be allowed to be president, while 68% said they shouldn't. That includes 87% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans who said a felon shouldn't be allowed to be president.

It's unclear if those general feelings will have a big impact on how voters will see Trump in particular — or if the verdict will change people's views about felons eligibility for the presidency.

Trust in jury system polarizes

YouGov polling at the start and end of the trial found expanding polarization about the American jury system. On April 16, 63% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans said they trusted the jury system either "a moderate amount" or "a great deal" — an 8-point gap. By May 31, after the Manhattan jury voted to convict Trump, Democratic trust in juries had risen to 73% while Republicans' trust had fallen to 38%. That's a 35-percentage-point gap.

Biden had held small lead among voters who dislike both candidates

YouGov polling has shown the 2024 presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump to be extremely close for months. One key factor in that race is the roughly one-in-four registered voters who dislike both Biden and Trump.

While Biden led throughout the 2020 campaign among voters who disliked him and Trump, this group has been more closely divided in 2024. Each candidate has led among this group at one time or another, with Biden registering modest leads for the past two months. It's unclear if news of Trump's conviction will affect his standing among voters who dislike both major-party candidates.

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