epa06417072 US President Donald J. Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Washington, DC, USA, 04 January 2018. President...
ALEX WONG / POOL

National poll: American majority sees Trump as a criminal

In the new national Quinnipiac poll, Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at just 38%, which has to be discouraging for the White House, but which is not the most striking result in the survey.

President Donald Trump committed crimes before he became president, American voters say 64 - 24 percent in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. […]

But U.S. voters are divided 45 - 43 percent on whether Trump committed any crimes while he has been president.

In polls like these, results are sometimes shaped by a sense of tribalism: those who hold this president in contempt, for example, may be reflexively inclined to think of him as a criminal, whether those beliefs are supported by evidence or not.

But in this case, recent coverage of Trump’s alleged crimes may be reaching the public. Note that in the Quinnipiac data, even a third of Republicans believe the president committed crimes before taking office.

Making matters worse for the White House, a plurality of Americans believe Trump also committed crimes during his presidency. Why is his approval rating so weak at a point when the economy is healthy? Perhaps because roughly half the country suspects the Leader of the Free World is a criminal.

As if this weren’t quite enough, the same Quinnipiac poll asked respondents whom they believe more: Trump or his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. It wasn’t especially close: 50% believe Trump’s former fixer, while 35% believe the president.

It’s the sort of result that twists the knife a bit, since Cohen will soon report to prison for, among other things, lying to Congress. And yet, Americans still see him as more credible than his former boss. (The poll found 65% of the public does not believe Trump is honest.)

All of this is rather embarrassing for the president, but a poll like this may have practical implications, as well.

If, for example, Special Counsel Robert Mueller produces a report that points to presidential criminal misdeeds, the findings will land on fertile soil. It’s not as if Trump will enjoy the public’s benefit of the doubt – because much of the country already sees the president as a criminal.

What’s more, House Democrats are moving forward with a series of investigations into Trump-related scandals. Republicans continue to argue that Dems are “over reaching” and risking a public backlash. If the results of the Quinnipiac poll are correct, that’s unlikely.