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CBS News Poll: After Trump indictment, most see security risk, but Republicans see politics

CBS News Poll: After Trump indictment, most see security risk, but Republicans see politics

Republican primary voters say they’re far more concerned that Donald Trump’s indictment is politically motivated than his alleged conduct being a national security risk – and there’s no evidence it’s hurt his status as the clear front-runner for the 2024 nomination, at least not yet. He remains well ahead of rivals in both consideration and vote choice.

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In fact, most Republican primary voters would not generally consider him keeping the alleged documents with nuclear systems or military plans to be a national security risk, in and of itself.

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Most explicitly ruled out the charges announced in the indictment changing their views about Mr. Trump. Rather than being disqualifying in their eyes, even if he’s ultimately convicted of a crime in the matter, they overwhelmingly feel he should still be able to serve as president again.

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Interviewing for this survey was conducted both before and after the indictment was announced and made public, and there’s no evidence that it has hurt Trump’s standing in the primary contest. Respondents were recontacted after Friday’s DOJ announcement and asked additional follow-up questions on the matter.

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At this stage of the race, it’s always important to consider what the electorate wants even more than any horse race. And on that front, despite the rhetoric from the campaign, GOP voters prioritize economics over so-called culture war issues.

They put a lot more importance on a candidate having a plan to lower inflation and lower taxes than they do on topics being discussed on the trail like, for instance, limiting the rights of transgender people and a national abortion ban (compared in the graphic below).

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But this doesn’t mean Trump (or perhaps those coming to his defense) is in perfect sync with the electorate either – and perhaps that could be an opening for an opponent down the line.

Most GOP primary voters do not want to hear Trump himself talk about the legal cases and investigations against him, nor about what happened in the 2020 election, though those topics have been a key part of his rallies, including in the wake of the indictment. They’d rather him talk about the present or future: his plans for the country now.

And if the nominee were someone other than Trump, they would prefer that person not talk about Trump at all, rather than show him loyalty.

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But here’s the needle other Republican candidates need to thread: in yet another sign of Trump’s influence on the party, even if he were not the nominee, Republican voters overwhelmingly say they’d like a candidate similar to him.

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Approach to governing

But that said, if Trump is talking to the most loyal “MAGA” Republicans only, there are indeed differences between them and the rest of the party in what kind of an approach they say a GOP president generally ought to take. 

Relative to other Republicans, MAGA Republicans are a bit more likely to voice a more combative approach. While most would prefer a president who finds common ground with Democrats, a third would prefer investigating and punishing the opposition party, which is higher than non-MAGA identifiers.

And they’re less likely to say it’s important for the Republican nominee to appeal to moderate and independent voters in the election, preferring instead one who motivates the GOP base.

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The GOP Race: Consideration and Vote

Trump is up nearly three to one in vote preference over Ron DeSantis, his next closest competitor, whose official entry into the race hasn’t changed his standing relative to Trump. The rest of the field is currently seeing support rates in the single digits.

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Trump is at least being considered by three-quarters of the primary electorate; that’s always a critical measure at this early stage of a race, where voters know they have time to weigh the merits of multiple candidates, so far from the actual vote. 

Respondents here were free to consider as many or as few as they liked, and most Republican voters are still considering more than one candidate.

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And when we take an overall look at the field, accounting for both consideration and current vote, we see that Trump dominates when the two measures are taken together, suggesting he has an even higher ceiling, and that Ron DeSantis and other candidates still have more people considering them than voting for them, leaving open the question of whether they can convert more of them. So far, they have not.

Trump leads no matter what qualities Republican voters want most in a president — including voters who want a president to be decisive and have energy, but also among those who say it’s important for a president to tell Americans the truth, have character, and even be a role model for children. 

He’s the choice no matter what they think is important for a GOP nominee to do, across all items tested.

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It’s another example that today, people – and especially partisans – view things like truth and character quite differently, including whether they feel anyone in politics has it. Across so many of our surveys over the years, Republicans have long seen Trump as someone fighting for them and telling it like it is in a politicized system.

Views of Joe Biden

Turning now to the man Republicans want to take on… Joe Biden remains at 41% approval. Democrats like the debt ceiling deal, but Republicans less so — particularly MAGA Republicans —  and many Americans haven’t heard enough about it.

Amid concerns about his age heading into the next campaign, which voters including Democrats have voiced in recent polling, we asked whether Biden should be running for a second term. Four in ten Democrats say he should not. When asked why, they mainly cited concerns about whether he could complete a second term, more so than about his performance in his first.

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So we asked in general if the demands of the presidency are too great for people over age 75. And about half of Americans think it is, while nearly four in ten say it depends.

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Looking at presidential qualities as they relate to Biden’s own approval, he does better with those who prioritize characteristics like experience and empathy and much less well with those who look for items like energy.

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This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,480 U.S. adult residents interviewed between June 7-10, 2023. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as past vote. The margin of error is ±2.7 points for the sample overall and  ±5.5 points for likely Republican primary voters

The total sample also includes 1,798 respondents recontacted between June 9-10, 2023, after a federal indictment against Donald Trump was unsealed. For this nationally representative sample, a recontact weight was applied by age, gender, race, education, 2020 vote, party identification, and 2024 primary intent. The margin of error is ±3.3 points for the recontacted sample.

Published: 2023-06-11 13:30:12

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