Most Americans say Trump should face charges over 2020 election, poll finds

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 3, 2023.

Tom Brenner | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Most Americans support the decision by special counsel Jack Smith to prosecute former President Donald Trump for allegedly trying to overturn his loss in the 2020 election, a new poll from Quinnipiac University found.

More than half of U.S. adults, 54%, said they think Trump should face criminal charges in that case, while 42% disagreed, according to the university’s latest national survey, released Wednesday. That majority included 57% of respondents who said they were independents, and 12% of Republicans, along with nearly all Democrats.

Also, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they considered the federal charges against Trump to be serious, including 52% who said they were “very serious,” the poll found.

“Not only do a large majority of Americans regard the federal charges as serious, more than half of Americans think the former president should face prosecution,” Quinnipiac’s polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement.

But the poll also found that Trump’s lead is growing larger in the 2024 Republican presidential primary while his nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, hemorrhages support.

The governor, who was just 6 points behind Trump in Quinnipiac’s national poll in February, trailed the former president by 39 points in the survey released Wednesday.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the four-count federal indictment charging him with conspiring to subvert the will of voters and reverse President Joe Biden’s legitimate victory in the 2020 contest.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,818 American adults Aug. 10-14 in its latest poll, which had a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points.

The polling period ended on the same day that Trump was hit with his fourth criminal indictment, this one related to his alleged scheme to reverse his 2020 election loss in the state of Georgia.

The state-level indictment, which was returned by a grand jury Monday night, charges Trump and 18 other defendants with a total of 41 felony counts, 13 against Trump. All the defendants are charged with violating Georgia’s racketeering statute, which carries a five-year minimum sentence if convicted.

Trump and his co-defendants are required to surrender before Aug. 25. Quinnipiac did not ask respondents about the Georgia case.

Trump now faces four active criminal cases, an unprecedented situation for any former U.S. president or current presidential candidate to be in. Trump’s legal troubles are looming over his campaign schedule and putting a major financial strain on his political operation. At least one of Trump’s cases is scheduled to begin before the November 2024 election.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents in Quinnipiac’s poll said that if a person is convicted of a felony, they should not be eligible to run for president.

Yet Trump’s prior indictments — all of which were filed after he launched his latest White House bid — have done no discernible damage to his status as the clear front-runner in the Republican primary.

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Quinnipiac’s latest poll of the GOP primary field found 57% support for Trump among Republicans and GOP-leaning voters. DeSantis, meanwhile, was the top choice of just 18% of this same group, his lowest level of support in any Quinnipiac poll this year.

The poll’s findings align with FiveThirtyEight’s polling tracker, which shows Trump maintaining a sizeable lead over a crowded field while DeSantis’ support dwindles.

Minutes before the poll was released, Trump touted his commanding lead over his GOP primary rivals in a social media post that also railed against Fox News’ coverage of him.

Fox “is going all out, just as they did in 2016, to figure who in this very large, but failing, Republican field, can beat your favorite President, Donald John Trump,” he wrote on Truth Social.

“They use only the most negative polls, which are still great for me, and do everything possible to show that they still have a chance,” he said.

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