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Here’s Why A Hush Money Conviction May Cost Trump The Election

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Updated Apr 25, 2024, 10:29am EDT

Topline

Former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial, which began last week in Manhattan, could cost him the 2024 election if it ends in a conviction, polls show, even though less than half of voters believe he should be found guilty.

Key Facts

A Wednesday Quinnipiac University poll found high engagement in the trial—in which he is accused of making hush money payments to an adult film star to improve his chances of winning the 2016 election—with nearly 70% of voters saying they are watching the trial news somewhat or very closely and 21% saying they would be less likely to vote for him if convicted.

Most voters consider the charges serious: 57% in a New York Times/Siena poll released Saturday and 60% in the Quinnipiac poll, though 46% in the Times/Siena survey said he should be found guilty and 46% of Quinnipiac respondents said they believe he did something illegal.

When asked if Trump would be fit for office if convicted in each of his four criminal cases, about half of adults surveyed by AP/NORC in a poll released earlier this month said he would not be, but less than 10% of voters who believe Trump did nothing wrong expressed that sentiment about each of the cases.

Polls show a guilty conviction in any of Trump’s four criminal cases—even in the lower-profile hush money case—could sway the results of the November election, as Trump and President Joe Biden are within single-digit margins of each other and the race will likely be decided by a handful of swing states that Biden won by just tens of thousands of votes in 2020.

Some 13% of voters who said they would vote for Trump today indicated they wouldn’t if he were convicted of a felony, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week that also found 24% of all Republicans surveyed wouldn’t vote for Trump if he were convicted of a felony—which could be enough to cost Trump the election.

Voters are split along party lines: Just 14% of Republicans think Trump is guilty in the Manhattan case, which accuses him of falsifying records to hide hush money payments, compared to 86% of Democrats and 54% of independents, according to a March Politico/Ipsos poll.

Big Number

0.3 percentage points. That’s Trump’s lead against Biden in a general election matchup, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average.

Tangent

The AP/NORC poll suggests Trump’s claims that his four criminal cases are designed to thwart his chances of being elected appear to be resonating with much of the public. Some 44% of respondents said they’re not very confident or not at all confident Manhattan prosecutors are treating Trump fairly, while 42% said the same about state prosecutors in Georgia and 45% said the same about federal prosecutors—similar results when asked about the fairness and impartiality of the judges in the cases.

Surprising Fact

The Reuters/Ispos poll found the majority of adults consider each of Trump’s criminal cases to be “serious,” though less so when it comes to the hush money case. Some 65% said that case is serious, compared to his federal classified documents case (70%), his Georgia election interference case (72%) and the federal election fraud case (75%). Some 31% of voters believe Trump’s conduct in the hush money case was unethical but not illegal, according to the AP/NORC poll that found 12% said the same about his Georgia election interference case, 18% for his role in the January 6 Capitol riots and 15% for his federal classified documents case.

Key Background

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the Manhattan case accusing Trump and his company of paying his former attorney Michael Cohen $420,000 as reimbursement for payments Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an affair she claims to have had with Trump. Prosecutors elevated the falsifying business records charges, typically a misdemeanor, to felonies by alleging Trump committed the alleged crimes in the commission of the secondary crime of campaign finance violations, arguing the payments were effectively political donations to Trump that exceeded the legal limit. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that state Judge Juan Merchan and the prosecutor who brought the case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, are working on behalf of Biden to help him win the election.

What To Watch For

Prosecutors on Monday began calling witnesses to testify in the case before the 12-person jury selected last week. Former National Enquirer publisher and longtime Trump friend David Pecker was the first to take the stand, admitting to jurors the tabloid intentionally “embellished” stories to help Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 election. Prosecutors allege Pecker alerted Cohen that Daniels was seeking to sell her story—a detail he has yet to touch on in his first two days of testimony. He is expected to continue his testimony Thursday.

Further Reading

Trump Judge Merchan Warns Of Arrest If Trump Disrupts Or Skips Hush Money Trial (Forbes)

Prosecutors Want Trump Fined $3,000 For Violating Judge Merchan’s Gag Order (Forbes)

Trump’s Trial Will Include ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape—But Not Sexual Assault Allegations, Judge Rules (Forbes)

Trump Judge Submits ‘Most Exhaustive Questionnaire’ For Jurors In Hush Money Case: Here Are All 42 Questions (Forbes)

Trump Rips Manhattan Hush Money Case Just Before Arriving In Court (Forbes)

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