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Poll: Plurality thinks Trump broke the law in classified docs scandal

The latest national polling found that a 47% plurality believes Donald Trump did something illegal or unethical and should be charged with a crime.


It was exactly one month ago today when the FBI executed a court-approved search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, and ever since, the public has learned quite a bit about Donald Trump bringing classified documents to his glorified country club.

To hear the Republican and his team tell it, Americans have rallied behind the former president. Eric Trump, for example, recently appeared on a conservative outlet and said, “The whole country is revolting over it.”

The evidence to the contrary continues to pile up. Consider the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, which was released yesterday.

When it comes to the FBI search, a plurality (44%) of respondents said they think Trump did something illegal. Another 17% think he did something unethical, but not illegal. Nearly 30% maintain he did nothing wrong, including 63% of Republicans.

The same survey data showed that a 47% plurality believes the former president did something illegal or unethical and should be charged with a crime.

Not surprisingly, the partisan gap is enormous — Democrats and Republicans, predictably, are looking at this controversy in very different ways — though one-in-four GOP voters agreed that Trump’s conduct was either illegal (5%) or unethical (15%).

Whether that should be seen as a lot or a little is a matter of perspective.

Regardless, this data can be added to other recent survey results to paint a fuller picture of public attitudes on the Mar-a-Lago scandal. The latest NBC News poll, for example, which was released two weeks ago, found 57% of the public agreeing that investigation into Trump’s alleged wrongdoing should continue.

Last week’s Quinnipiac poll, meanwhile, found that 50% of respondents agreed that the Republican should face criminal charges.

Revisiting our earlier coverage, the results aren’t altogether surprising. Trump is not widely popular, and he’s been accused of serious wrongdoing. It stands to reason that the American mainstream would support an investigation and legal consequences.

But the fact that the results are predictable doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. For one thing, the data suggests Team Trump’s public-relations offensive hasn’t been especially effective: Rank-and-file Republicans have largely accepted the talking points from the former president and conservative media outlets, but that’s far from a national majority.

For another, the polling evidence suggests that Team Trump’s assumptions about public attitudes are more wishful thinking than honest assessments.