Trump Indictment: A Guide for Advocates
This Navigator Research report contains data from a survey gauging reaction to former President Trump’s indictment by the Special Counsel for mishandling classified documents, tracking on the share who believe he has committed a crime, and an evaluation of the details in the indictment that Americans find most concerning.
Three in five Americans have an unfavorable view of Donald Trump, as his favorability among independents has eroded since early May.
By a 22-point margin, Donald Trump’s favorability is deeply underwater (38 percent favorable – 60 percent unfavorable), including among seven in ten independents who are unfavorable toward him (net -46; 23 percent favorable – 69 percent unfavorable). Trump’s favorability among independents has dropped by 14 points since late March, prior to his first indictment in New York for allegedly falsifying business records (from 37 percent favorable then to just 23 percent favorable now). There are also fractures in perceptions of Trump among Republicans: two in five Republicans who do not identify with the MAGA movement are now unfavorable toward Trump (net +18; 58 percent favorable – 40 percent unfavorable).
- By a 30-point margin, Americans overwhelmingly believe Trump has committed a crime (62 percent has committed a crime – 32 percent has not), including 63 percent of independents and even one in four Republicans who believe he has committed a crime (26 percent). Moreover, similar shares believe Trump thinks he is above the law (63 percent above the law – 37 percent law applies to him, including 66 percent of independents and 45 percent of non-MAGA Republicans) and that he is unfit to serve as President again (58 percent unfit – 42 percent fit, including 62 percent of independents).
Three in four report hearing about the former president being indicted on 37 federal counts in an investigation into his mishandling of classified documents.
74 percent report seeing, reading, or hearing about Trump being indicted for his mishandling of classified documents, with 42 percent who report hearing “a lot.” When describing what respondents heard about Trump’s indictment, Democrats and independents are most likely to cite words like “guilty” or “charges,” while Republicans are largely critical of President Biden.
- In an initial ask without the context of what he was indicted for, Americans support Trump being indicted by a 14-point margin (53 percent support – 39 percent oppose), including a plurality of independents (44 percent support) and nearly one in five Republicans (17 percent). When offering context about the indictment, including that it entailed 37 federal counts including “charges under the Espionage Act, as well as charges of obstruction of justice, destruction or falsification of records, conspiracy, and making false statements to investigators,” net support rises to 20 point points (56 percent support – 36 percent oppose), including a 6-point increase among independents from the initial ask (to 50 percent) and a 5-point increase among Republicans (to 22 percent).
- By 12 points, most Americans agree more that the FBI and federal prosecutors “have been investigating Trump in a fair way that has been by the book, following the law in pursuit of the truth like they would against anyone who has potentially committed a crime” (56 percent) than think that they “have an agenda to keep Donald Trump from winning the presidency in 2024 and have been politically motivated to target him from the moment he started running for president in 2016” (44 percent). Independents agree more that the FBI and federal prosecutors have been investigating Trump in a fair way by 26 points (63 percent by the book – 37 percent politically motivated).
The strongest arguments in favor of the most recent indictment center on the sensitive information in the classified documents and the lack of security of where they were kept.
This survey tested two progressive arguments against the following conservative argument: “Donald Trump has done nothing wrong. Joe Biden also took classified documents from the White House as Vice President and Hillary Clinton broke the law when it came to her emails.” Both arguments — one centering how he shared classified documents with reporters and friends and one detailing the extent of his alleged obstruction — performed equally well as rebuttals to the conservative argument by 10 points:
- Democrats who say what Donald Trump did was unprecedented. He knowingly took boxes of classified documents with sensitive information about our military and nuclear operations and showed them to reporters and friends. No one is above the law, not even a former president (net +10; 55 percent progressive argument, including 63 percent of independents – 45 percent conservative argument); and,
- Democrats who say what Donald Trump did was unprecedented. He knowingly took boxes of classified documents, hid them in a bathroom, tried to conceal them, and even demanded his lawyers lie about their existence. No one is above the law, not even a former president (net +10; 55 percent progressive argument, including 50 percent of independents – 45 percent conservative argument).
The most concerning details in the indictment include the information surrounding our nuclear program, vulnerabilities of the U.S military, and Trump’s suggesting to his lawyer to hide or destroy subpoenaed classified documents.
Two in three Americans find it concerning that “Donald Trump was recorded on tape sharing material he described as ‘highly confidential’ and ‘secret’ with someone who did not have the proper security clearance” (65 percent concerning, including 49 percent who say this is “very” concerning), that “Donald Trump allegedly took classified documents about potential vulnerabilities of the U.S and its allies to military attacks” (64 percent concerning, including 50 percent who say this is “very” concerning), and that “Donald Trump allegedly suggested that his lawyer hid or destroy subpoenaed classified document” (63 percent concerning, including 49 percent who say this is “very” concerning). Other details seen as concerning at similar levels include:
- Donald Trump allegedly shared a highly sensitive, secret plan of attack against Iran with visitors to his golf club (62 percent concerning);
- Donald Trump allegedly told lawyers on his team to falsely claim that he did not have documents in response to a subpoena (62 percent concerning); and,
- Donald Trump allegedly shared a top secret military map with a staff member at his political action committee who did not have the proper security clearance (61 percent concerning).
About The Study
Global Strategy Group conducted public opinion surveys among a sample of 1,000 registered voters from June 14-June 20, 2023. 101 additional interviews were conducted among Hispanic voters. 75 additional interviews were conducted among Asian American and Pacific Islander voters. 100 additional interviews were conducted among African American voters. 100 additional interviews were conducted among independent voters. The survey was conducted online, recruiting respondents from an opt-in online panel vendor. Respondents were verified against a voter file and special care was taken to ensure the demographic composition of our sample matched that of the national registered voter population across a variety of demographic variables.