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Most Republicans would vote for Trump even if he's convicted of a crime, poll finds

Former President Donald Trump walks across the tarmac as he arrives to speak at a campaign rally at Waco Regional Airport on March 25, 2023, in Waco, Texas.
Nathan Howard
/
AP
Former President Donald Trump walks across the tarmac as he arrives to speak at a campaign rally at Waco Regional Airport on March 25, 2023, in Waco, Texas.

As President Biden launches his reelection campaign, a rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump looks increasingly likely. This comes as a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll out Tuesday that finds two-thirds of Republicans would still vote for Trump even if he is found guilty of a crime.

"Everything that Trump has ever been accused of, has come out to be false," said one of the almost 1,300 poll respondents, Richard Holton II, 65, of Beaver Creek, Ohio.

Holton believes the 2020 election was stolen, that Hillary Clinton "cheated" in 2016 and that Democrats start wars and are bad for the economy. He channels Trump, calling the indictment in New York, stemming from hush-money payments to a porn actress, a "hit job by the Democrats."

"It's all made up," Holton said. "He can't get a fair trial there, and it's all fake."

There are multiple criminal investigations into Trump — beyond the charges he's facing in New York. There are two federal ones relating to his taking of classified documents from the White House and his conduct around the Jan. 6 insurrection, as well as one in Georgia looking into his pressure campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election he lost.

Jury selection also began Tuesday in a civil sexual assault and defamation lawsuit brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who alleges Trump raped her in a New York department store changing room in the 1990s. More than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual assault.

And yet, all of that seems to matter little to Republicans, according to the NPR poll — 71% of Republicans said they think Trump should be president again.

That drops only 8 points to 63% even if Trump is convicted of a crime.

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Republicans remain loyal to Trump as general support lags

Paul, 22, of Bergen County, N.J., also a poll respondent, said he, too, would vote for Trump even if found guilty of a crime. He similarly dismisses the multiple allegations against Trump.

"Past presidents have not been charged with a lot worse stuff," claimed Paul, who did not want his last name used.

He supports Trump, he said, because he likes his economic policies and his stance on international affairs. He's not enamored with Republicans, but calls them the "lesser of two evils."

Asked whether he really would want to vote for Trump if he was convicted of a crime, Paul said, "Literally speaking, probably not, but in [this] case, it would have to be like eight past presidents being indicted for war crimes for there to actually be a standard."

Former President Donald Trump stopping by Downtown House of Pizza in Fort Myers, Fla., where employees of the establishment greeted him and took photos.
Chris Tilley / AP
/
AP
Former President Donald Trump stopping by Downtown House of Pizza in Fort Myers, Fla., where employees of the establishment greeted him and took photos.

For those who have covered Trump rallies, these are not uncommon sentiments. But they are out of step with where most Americans are.

Overall, 64% of respondents do not want Trump to be president again. And that grows to 70% if he's convicted of a crime.

That so many rank-and-file Republicans would stick with Trump, seemingly no matter what, shows the real stronghold he has on the GOP base — and why he's considered the front-runner to win the Republican nomination again.

The twice-impeached Trump has spent years delegitimizing investigations into his conduct. Trump has described them as "witch hunts" and "Deep State" conspiracies.

Most Americans don't seem to buy his rhetoric, but Trump's done a pretty good job convincing GOP voters of his baseless allegations, helping to insulate himself from potential attacks from rivals in a GOP primary.

In fact, asked about one of Trump's top rivals, Ron DeSantis, 44, poll respondent Holton echoes advertising supporting Trump that attacks DeSantis — messaging that DeSantis has left largely unanswered.

"DeSantis — thought he would make a good one," Holton said, "but when I hear Trump's explanation of it, he helped make him, and he turned on him. There's no loyalty. He's young, he's got a long time."

There's a huge disconnect, though, with persuadable voters, making Trump's chances of winning a general election precarious. Just 29% of independents, for example, say he should be president again.

It's a key group, especially for Republicans, who need to win a larger share of them than Democrats.

What's more, a majority of respondents said they want Trump to drop out given just the 34-count New York indictment — 58% said so, 41% said he should continue.

In fairness, that appears to be a proxy for feelings about Trump. Nearly everything asked about him for years, from his approval rating as president to his favorability rating to whether he should drop out, has come in somewhere in that range.

Three-quarters of Republicans said he should forge on, showing just how strong a hand he has in a GOP primary, especially since no other strong alternative candidate has fully emerged yet.

Biden's approval continues to languish

President Joe Biden walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on April 21, 2023, as he heads to Marine One to travel to Camp David for the weekend.
Susan Walsh / AP
/
AP
President Biden walks across the South Lawn of the White House on April 21, as he heads to Marine One to travel to Camp David for the weekend.

President Biden announced his reelection bid Tuesday, but he cannot get away from mediocre approval ratings.

In this survey, before his official announcement, just 41% said they approve of the job he's doing, 50% disapprove. That's similar to where it's been since the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2021.

His approval rating among independents is just 36%, a group he won in 2020 and needs to win over again if he hopes to win reelection next year.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.