Public Opinion About Trump’s Criminality Seems To Be Changing

Public Opinion About Trump’s Criminality Seems To Be Changing

The official 2024 campaign will get underway with the first televised GOP presidential debate in just three weeks, further pushing American politics into uncharted political seas. Chris Christie, one of Donald Trump's rivals in the Republican primary, said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that "it is most likely that, by the time we get on the debate stage on August 23rd, the front-runner will be out on bail in four different jurisdictions—Florida, Washington, Georgia, and New York.

Trump will be present the entire time at the debate in Minneapolis, despite not being anticipated to attend. Even if you consider how he has altered public perceptions of American politics over the past eight years and normalized events that had never occurred before, the current state of affairs is still extremely bizarre. Federal prosecutors in Florida added three more counts against Trump on Thursday for maintaining access to confidential documents after leaving office. Obstructing justice is one of the new charges. State prosecutors in Georgia's Fulton County are likely to accuse the former President of attempting to rig the results of the state's 2020 election in the coming weeks, and federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., are likely to follow suit.

According to Christie, if the judges decide not to keep Trump incarcerated, he will be released on bail and be able to continue rallying his supporters and compelling elected Republicans and his fellow 2024 contenders to repeat his accusations of a "witch hunt." In the GOP primary polls, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who is making some progress but is still trailing the former President, said over the weekend that he would pardon Trump if elected. Nikki Haley, who is also running for president in 2024, has also made suggestions that she might do the same.

How the American people will react to Trump's legal drama between now and November 2024 is harder to predict, mostly because there is no precedent. Will the growing number of charges and pieces of evidence, and maybe even real trials, slowly turn voters, especially those who aren't very partisan, against the former President? Will things work out for him? Or will things stay the same, with very different views based on who you support?

The most recent opinion poll conducted by Bright Line Watch, a group of political scientists who keep an eye on dangers to democracy, is a good place to start when considering these issues. The poll, which was released last week, was conducted ahead of the most recent accusations against Trump. On the surface, it appeared to reinforce the well-known perception that there aren't many commonly agreed truths regarding anything pertaining to the previous President. Less than one in six Republican respondents indicated they thought Trump had broken the law by trying to rig the 2020 election, acting recklessly prior to the riots on January 6, or paying Stormy Daniels hush money. The number of Republicans who said they thought he broke the law in the instance involving the classified documents increased somewhat, but it was still only one in four. The results showed that, in contrast, at least three out of four Democrats think that Trump committed crimes in each of these cases.

Those who responded that they weren't inclined toward either party in the poll gave less specific replies. Between 37% and 46% of these respondents said they believed Trump had broken the law. The majority of respondents—roughly 50%—said that the accusations were brought about by politics. Even if the poll's findings are favorable for Trump and his followers, it also revealed a rising percentage of independents who believe Trump has broken the law, particularly in the case of the sensitive papers. A crime had been committed in that case, according to 34% of independent respondents to a Bright Line Watch poll conducted in October. That percentage increased to 46% in the most recent research.

This shows that as prosecutors release more information about the charges and evidence against Trump, voters who don't agree with him on everything are slowly changing their minds. Even among Republicans, there were signs that things were changing. Since October, the number of Republicans who said they thought Trump had broken the law by handling classified papers went from 9 to 25. "We have to keep two things in mind at the same time," Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth who helped start Bright Line Watch, told me on Monday. He said that even though the public has mixed opinions about the situation, the new evidence has the potential for some truth.

According to Nyhan’s second caveat, the other cases might be different from the classified-documents case because the evidence holds enough strength and credibility. There has been a decrease in the number of Republicans that support Trump – from 50% to 40% – but there are still many of them who believe that Trump has done nothing wrong.

So far, it looks like people are willing to learn new information and form opinions of their own. It’s a refreshing twist – good for society – that people are looking to become receptive to change. It’s an indication that they’re not likely to be misled by false information. However, if the evidence is not convincing or as strong, people may not change their pattern of thinking and keep believing what they’re told.