A majority of Americans say the multiple criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump's conduct are fair, despite Trump's continued efforts claiming they are conspiracies against him, the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds.
The survey of more than 1,300 adults also found that despite the love for him among Republicans, Trump remains highly disliked, continues to struggle mightily with independents — and 6 in 10 Americans don't want him to be president again.
The results come as Trump has raised the specter of his potential arrest, due to a hush money investigation out of New York. Trump faces at least three other criminal investigations — two federal, stemming from classified documents found at his Florida home and one examining his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, as well as one from Georgia, looking at his pressure campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election he lost.
They also come as Trump held his first presidential campaign rally Saturday in Waco, Texas, where he baselessly described the investigations as the result of "prosecutorial misconduct."
"Prosecutorial misconduct is their new tool," Trump said, "and they're willing to use it at levels never seen before in our country. We've had it, but we've never had it like this. We must stop them and we must not allow them to go through another election where they have yet another tool in their tool kit."
But most Americans don't agree with him. By a 56%-to-41% margin respondents said the investigations are fair and not a "witch hunt."
As expected, there's a huge partisan divide — 9 in 10 Democrats say they are fair, while 8 in 10 Republicans call them a witch hunt. A slim majority of independents call them fair, but they are closely split, 51% to 47%.
Those most likely to say the investigations are fair are those in the Gen Z and millennial generations, people who live in big cities and suburbs, and white college graduates, especially college-educated white women.
The latter is a demographic that's been one of the most reliable Democratic voting — and anti-Trump — groups.
Those most likely to say the investigations are a witch hunt were core Trump supporting groups: white men without degrees, white evangelical Christians and those who live in small towns.
Three-quarters say Trump has either done something illegal (46%) or unethical (29%). Only a quarter (23%) think he's done nothing wrong.
In a mirror of public perception about the ongoing investigations, those most likely to think Trump did something illegal are white college grads, especially white, college-educated women, women who live in small cities and suburbs and people who live in the Northeast.
But just 10% of Republicans think Trump did something illegal. They are more split when it comes to whether Trump did something unethical or nothing wrong — 45% say nothing wrong, 43% say he's done something unethical but not illegal.
That reflects the split in the GOP primary. About half of rank-and-file Republican voters appear to be open to someone else, but Trump clearly still has a lock on a significant portion of the GOP.
Republicans also like Trump a lot — 8 in 10 have a favorable opinion of him. But, more broadly, Trump remains highly unpopular.
Just 39% overall have a favorable opinion of Trump, 51% have a negative view. That includes just 37% of independents who have a positive view of him.
Even though Trump's 2024 campaign is well underway, 61% of respondents don't want Trump to be president, including almost two-thirds of independents.
For Republicans, it's a different story — three-quarters do want Trump to be president again.
So Trump remains very popular with the base, but politically toxic with everyone else. That represents a real conundrum for the GOP because with numbers like those, it's hard to see how Trump wins a general election, but also hard to see how he loses the Republican nomination — without a sustained effort from others in the party to go after his glaring vulnerabilities that have cost the GOP in recent elections.
The survey of 1,327 adults, including 1,226 registered voters, was conducted from Monday, March 20 through Thursday, March 23. It was done by telephone with live callers to cellphones and landlines, as well as by text message and online and in English and Spanish. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Another week, another round of waiting for a potential indictment of former President Donald Trump. Last week, Trump claimed he was going to be arrested in a hush money case out of New York. He was not. He is, though, using the investigation to help him with his base and raise money. So how do Americans feel about the multiple criminal investigations into his conduct not just in New York, but in Georgia and two federal cases? A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll out this morning asked more than 1,300 respondents just that.
Here to explain is NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. So what do people make of these investigations into the former president?
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Well, a majority, 56%, say that they're fair, while 4 in 10 call them a witch hunt. That, of course, echoes Trump and his allies and how they talk about these investigations. And as we continue to see, huge partisan divide here. Nine in 10 Democrats say the investigations are fair. Eight in 10 Republicans call them a witch hunt. And independents are closely split, with a slim majority calling them fair.
Those most likely to say the investigations are fair are younger people - those in the Gen Z and Millennial generations - people who live in big cities and suburbs and white college grads, especially college-educated white women. They've been one of the most reliable Democratic voter and anti-Trump groups. The most likely to call them a witch hunt, key, core Trump-supporting groups - white men without college degrees, white evangelical Christians and those who live in small towns.
MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, do the people who responded to the poll think that Donald Trump did anything wrong?
MONTANARO: Well, overwhelmingly, the majority did think he did at least something wrong, you know? Three-quarters say they think he either did something illegal or that he did something unethical but not illegal. Only a quarter say he did nothing wrong at all. Breaking that down, almost half say they think he did something illegal, 29% say unethical but not illegal. And only 11% of Republicans think he did something illegal.
But interestingly, there is a split among Republicans. You know, they're pretty evenly divided between those who think he did something unethical and those who say he did nothing wrong at all. That's pretty reflective of the Republican presidential primary right now if you look at that, because we've been seeing that almost half of GOP voters say they're at least open to someone other than Trump, but that Trump has a pretty strong hold on the other half so far.
MARTÍNEZ: So - OK. So speaking of that, then, is there anything here about Trump's prospects for his 2024 run?
MONTANARO: Yeah. Well, let's first start out with how people feel about him because that sets a pretty good baseline. Overall, he's still pretty highly disliked. Fifty-one percent have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, just 39% have a favorable one. Republicans, though, love him. Eight in 10 Republicans have a positive view of Trump. Just 14% say they have a negative one. But there's a continued warning sign for him with independents. Just 37% say they like him. We also asked people if they want Trump to be president again. And here, 6 in 10 say they do not. But look at these splits - 9 in 10 Democrats and almost two-thirds of independents say no. But three-quarters of Republicans say they do want him to be president again.
MARTÍNEZ: All right. So that's a pretty big gap. I mean, what does this say...
MONTANARO: Huge gap.
MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. What does this say then about his chances to be president again?
MONTANARO: You know, it really represents the conundrum that is Trump and the GOP primary. I mean, often, primary voters become practical and say - you know what? - we want someone who can win. But there is this CNN poll out last week that showed Republican voters would rather have someone who agrees with them rather than someone who can beat Biden. That's completely different than where the Democratic base was before the 2020 election. And, you know, when you look at these kinds of numbers in our poll, theirs and others, it's hard to see how he wins a general election, but also loses a Republican primary.
MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks a lot.
MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.