Polls show Americans oppose jailing Trump

A big question remains in former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan: What is the sentence and could he go to prison? We will find out on July 11.

Polls conducted since Thursday’s verdict confirm how politically crucial the answer could be for the 2024 election. But Americans have nuanced views on the subject, suggesting that a prison sentence could have a two-way effect. .

On the one hand, Americans oppose sending Trump to prison for these crimes – and even many of them approve of the guilty verdict.

On the other hand, polls show that a prison sentence could alienate more voters from him than a simple conviction.

So while a prison sentence might help convince Americans of the seriousness of Trump’s crimes, it might also lead them to decide it’s overkill.

Two polls since the verdict show that slightly more Americans say Trump I should not go to prison rather than saying he should:

  • A Reuters-Ipsos poll shows that Americans are 51% to 46% against a prison sentence.
  • A CBS News-YouGov poll shows 45 to 38 percent of Americans oppose it.

A significant number of Americans who approve of the Manhattan trial share this sentiment. For example, in the CBS poll, Americans said the trial was fair, 56 to 44 percent, and the verdict was correct, 57 to 43. So Americans believe in the trial and the double-digit outcome, but they still oppose the prison sentence.

Trump was convicted of 34 counts of falsifying business records in an illegal attempt to influence the 2016 election. These are misdemeanors punishable by 16 months to four years in prison. Experts appear to largely agree that incarceration is unlikely, given that these are the most minor offenses in New York and that Trump has never been convicted of a crime. But Trump’s post-conviction behavior, including his blatant lack of remorse and potential violations of his still-in-effect gag order, could work against him.

The lack of support for prison time is particularly notable, as Americans have already been open to the measure.

The same Reuters-Ipsos poll from January asked Americans whether Trump should be jailed if convicted in one of his cases. At least 71% of Americans agree with this statement, at least “somewhat,” and 53% “strongly agree.” However, today, only 46% believe that prison is justified in this particular case.

This perhaps reflects the perceived seriousness of Trump’s crimes. The January question did not ask about a specific case, and Americans have long viewed the Manhattan charges as less serious than Trump’s three other indictments.

The big question in this case is how Americans would react to a prison sentence, if at all.

Polls have shown that a prison sentence would theoretically turn away more voters.

In April, the Reuters-Ipsos poll showed President Biden gaining two points over Trump if convicted, but winning six points if Trump is “currently serving a prison sentence.” While only 9% of Trump supporters said they would abandon him if convicted, twice as many — 20% — said they would if Trump were in prison.

The new Reuters poll confirms this. It shows that 54% of registered voters say they would not vote for a convicted Trump, but 58% said they would not vote for an imprisoned Trump. The percentage of Republicans saying they would not support Trump increases from 14 to 23 percent.

But it is apparently if they agree that the result is justified. Americans might decide that a prison sentence is not appropriate in this particular case.

They did not buy into Trump’s claims that he had been politically targeted or that the trial was unfair — only about 4 in 10 Americans or fewer said that — but other polls have shown more suspicion that politics could have played a role in these prosecutions. This suggests that a prison sentence could test Americans’ stomachs about how far these proceedings have come.

The data so far does not necessarily suggest that they would be turn against these procedures. The CBS poll, for example, shows that nearly one in five Americans reserve judgment, and those who oppose prison make up the slightest of majorities in the Reuters poll. Few Americans paid much attention to the trial — 35 percent in the CBS poll and just 19 percent in the Reuters poll — so it seems possible that people could be convinced that prison is justified.

But these polls reinforce just how risky July 11 could be — and how New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan’s sentencing decision could reverberate in the four months after Election Day.


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