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Post-indictment poll: Trump surges to largest-ever lead over DeSantis

But the latest Yahoo News/YouGov survey also shows that most Americans don't think Trump should be allowed to serve as president again if convicted.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at CPAC in March 2023.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at CPAC in March 2023. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — one of the first conducted after former President Donald Trump was indicted Thursday for his role in paying hush money to a porn star — shows Trump surging to his largest-ever lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his likely 2024 GOP primary challenger, as Republican voters rally around the only president in U.S. history to face criminal charges.

In the previous Yahoo News/YouGov survey, which was conducted less than two weeks ago, Trump (47%) led DeSantis (39%) by eight percentage points in a head-to-head matchup among registered voters who are Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. As recently as February, it was DeSantis who was narrowly ahead of Trump, 45% to 41%.

But the new, post-indictment poll suddenly finds Trump lapping DeSantis by 26 percentage points — 57% to 31% — in a one-on-one contest. The former president even attracts majority support (52%, up from 44% previously) when pitted against a wider, 10-candidate field of declared and potential GOP challengers, while DeSantis plummets to 21% (down from 28%).

No one else cracks double digits.

By the same token, a full 54% of Republicans and Republican leaners would now prefer Trump to be the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee rather than “someone else” (33%) — up from 51% Trump, 39% someone else last time.

The survey of 1,089 U.S. adults was conducted in the first 24 hours after a New York grand jury voted to indict Trump, as news about the case continued to break and sink in. For many respondents, the opinions expressed may be tentative and volatile — and some of the shifts evident in this immediate snapshot may be fleeting.

Just 34% of Americans, for instance, said they had heard “a lot” about “Donald Trump being indicted on Thursday in Manhattan” — a number that will rise in the coming days. And while the former president has reportedly been charged on more than two dozen counts, the public still doesn’t know what those charges are. They are likely to be unsealed when he is arraigned Tuesday in Manhattan.

(On Friday evening, the Associated Press reported that Trump is “facing multiple charges of falsifying business records, including at least one felony offense” — presumably in connection with the $130,000 paid by Trump's fixer Michael Cohen to the porn star Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 campaign, then allegedly reimbursed and logged as legal expenses by Trump while he was president.)

So even though some pro-Trump respondents may have been especially eager to register their opposition to the indictment by expressing support for Trump, it’s far from clear that Trump’s legal woes will actually help him regain the Oval Office in 2024.

In fact, the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll suggests the opposite may be possible. Most Americans, for instance, think Trump should not be allowed to serve a second term if he is “convicted of a crime in this case” (52%). Perhaps even more ominous for Trump is how few think he should be allowed to serve as president if found guilty: just 31%. Another 17% are unsure.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to his audience in front of a screen saying: The Freedom Blueprint, the title of his book.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis makes his first trip to Iowa for a book tour stop at the Rhythm City Casino Resort in March. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

And while Trump is the clear front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination — an advantage that has only grown in the new survey — he is also under criminal investigation for at least three other alleged offenses: trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election; inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol; and taking highly classified documents with him to his home in Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Fla., after leaving office.

Majorities of registered voters — 64%, 54% and 71%, respectively — believe Trump did each of these things.

Beyond the GOP base, Americans as a whole seem to be predictably divided over Trump’s indictment. Asked whether they “approve or disapprove of Donald Trump being indicted for falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star,” a narrow plurality (42%) of Americans say they approve, while 39% say they disapprove and 19% say they’re not sure. A full 69% of Democrats approve; a full 66% of Republicans disapprove.

Americans are also polarized over whether the indictment is motivated more by “a genuine desire to hold Trump accountable” (42%) or “political bias against Trump” (43%), with three-quarters of Democrats saying the former (75%) and three-quarters of Republicans saying the latter (77%). Trump has characterized the indictment as “political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.”

Likewise, the combined number of Democrats (67%) who say they’re personally enthusiastic about (29%) or satisfied with (38%) Trump’s indictment is nearly identical to the combined number of Republicans (68%) who say they’re personally dissatisfied (29%) or angry (39%).

Yet there are also signs of possible trouble ahead for Trump. Fully half of independents (50%) now believe the former president has “committed a serious crime” at some point in his life — twice the number (25%) who think he has never committed a serious crime. When asked if they “think Donald Trump did or did not falsify business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star,” less than half of Republicans (48%) are confident that he did not. Another 17% say he did — and a whopping 35% say they’re not sure.

As a result, far more Americans overall think Trump did (45%) falsify business records in this case than did not (26%). And the share who say they’re not sure whether Trump will be convicted (39%) is greater than the shares that say yes, he will be found guilty (30%) or no, he will not (31%).

That level of uncertainty — especially among Republicans — leaves Trump politically vulnerable if indictments (and possibly convictions) start to pile up. Even 14% of Republicans who support Trump in a hypothetical two-way matchup against DeSantis say Trump should not be allowed to serve again if he’s convicted in the hush money case.

Meanwhile, the new survey shows no change at all in preferences for the general election, with President Biden maintaining the same two-point edge over Trump (45% to 43%) that he enjoyed in the previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

Even so, the indictment seems to have done little to damage Trump — at least initially. His favorable rating (45%) is now slightly higher than on the 11 previous surveys in which Yahoo News and YouGov asked a comparable question (where it ranged from 40% to 43%). Among Republicans, Trump’s favorable rating has risen to 79% (up from 74% in the wake of the 2022 midterm elections). And the survey also shows slight increases in positive perceptions of the former president — and slight decreases in negative perceptions — on a series of repeat questions:

  • 62% agree that “Trump says what other politicians are afraid to say,” up from 55% when the question was last asked, in December 2022.

  • 49% agree that “the only thing Donald Trump cares about is himself,” down from 53% when the question was last asked in December 2022.

  • 34% say “yes” when asked if Trump “respects women” (48% say no), up slightly from 30% in August 2020.

  • 35% say Trump is honest and trustworthy (47% say he is not), up from 30% in August 2020.

  • 44% say “yes” when asked if Trump’s family is corrupt (36% say no), down from 49% in October 2022.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,089 U.S. adults interviewed online from March 30 to 31, 2023. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (32% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 3.3%.