Livescore Sunday, May 19
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As the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president kicks off this week in Manhattan, more Americans than ever before (57%) say the underlying crimes that defendant Donald Trump has been charged with — “falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments to a porn star” — are “serious,” according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

That number is up six percentage points from the last time Yahoo News and YouGov asked about the hush money case, in December 2023. The previous high was 54% in September 2023.

The survey of 1,746 U.S. adults, which was conducted from April 11 to 15, found similar increases in the perceived seriousness of Trump’s other alleged felonies as well:

  • Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%, a new high) now say that “conspiring to overturn the results of a presidential election” is a serious crime, up from 66% in December.

  • A full 69% (another new high) now say “taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them” is a serious crime, up from 63% in December.

  • And the same share (69%) now say that “attempting to obstruct the certification of a presidential election” is a serious crime, up from 64% in December.

As before, Americans continue to see the hush money charges as less serious than the other offenses for which Trump has been indicted, likely reflecting the gravity of those other allegations, the salacious details of the Manhattan trial and the ongoing legal debate over the strength of District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case.

Yet the fact that a clear and growing majority of Americans think the hush money charges are serious — nearly twice the number who say the charges are “not serious” (30%) — suggests that Trump’s legal jeopardy may be starting to seem more “real” now that his first trial is finally underway.

Most Americans not yet convinced Trump should be convicted

At this point, there’s still a big gap between the rising number of Americans who consider the crimes themselves to be serious in nature — when described in general, with no mention of Trump — and the relatively stable number who think the former president should actually be convicted in court. For example:

  • 48% of Americans believe Trump did, in fact, falsify business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star, the same as in April 2023.

  • 42% think Trump broke the law by falsifying those business records, up slightly from 41% a year ago.

  • And 37% now think Trump falsified records, believe his actions amount to a crime and consider that crime “serious enough to warrant indictment and trial,” down slightly from 38% a year ago.

Bragg’s job in the coming weeks will be to convince a jury — and by extension, a larger share of the American public — that Trump’s actions warrant a conviction. Currently, more Americans say they’re not sure whether the former president falsified business records to conceal a hush money payment (29%) than say he did not do so (23%). Uncertainty is high.

In light of the tribalism and polarization afflicting U.S. politics, any kind of broad consensus is unlikely. A full 44% of Americans say the motivation behind Bragg’s indictment is “political bias against Trump,” while 41% say it is “a genuine desire to hold Trump accountable.”

Even more (51%) say they consider the Trump hush money indictment to be unfair given Bragg’s affiliation with the Democratic Party, with 23% saying it is unfair “but that’s how our system works” and 28% saying it is “unfair and should not be permitted.”

These numbers are essentially unchanged from a year ago.

Possible political peril ahead for Trump

Even so, a conviction could shake Trump’s political standing. Just one-third of Americans (33%) and only 14% of Republicans think the former president “will be found guilty” in the hush money case — meaning such a verdict would surprise and possibly unsettle many voters.

A majority of Americans, meanwhile, say Trump should not be allowed to serve again as president if convicted in the hush money case (51%) — a number that includes 16% of Republicans. Just 34% of Americans say he should be allowed to serve again if convicted in the Manhattan case.

Finally, the number of Americans who say Trump should not be allowed to serve again if convicted of any serious crime (57%) is rising (from 55% last month) while the number who say he should be allowed to serve again (29%) is falling (from 31% last month).

A full 65% now say it is important “that voters get a verdict in Trump’s trials before the 2024 general election” — versus just 25% who say it is not important.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,746 U.S. adults interviewed online from April 11 to 15, 2024. 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 Nov. 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.6%.

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