US divided along party lines over Trump election cases: Poll

Majority of Americans view ex-president unfavourably, but Donald Trump has strong support among Republicans, poll shows.

Former US President Donald Trump
Former US President Donald Trump has denied wrongdoing in the four criminal cases against him [File: Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

People in the United States are divided along party lines in their views on Donald Trump and the criminal cases against him, a new poll shows, as the former US president retains strong support among Republican voters.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released on Wednesday was conducted before charges were filed this week in Georgia against Trump.

It found that 53 percent of Americans approved of an earlier federal indictment against Trump for his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Eighty-five percent of Democrats approved of the criminal charges that were brought in early August by Special Counsel Jack Smith, compared with 47 percent of independents and 16 percent of Republicans, according to the poll.

Overall, three in 10 Americans disapprove, including about two-thirds of Republicans.

The poll is the latest to show that Trump, who has denied wrongdoing in all four of the criminal cases against him, remains the clear frontrunner in a crowded field of 2024 Republican presidential hopefuls – and the indictments he faces have done little to change that.

Prosecutors in Georgia announced the fourth indictment late on Monday, accusing Trump and 18 co-defendants of conspiring to “unlawfully change the outcome” of the 2020 vote in the state.

It was the second set of charges accusing Trump of election interference so far this year. He pleaded not guilty in early August to federal charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, which President Joe Biden won.

Trump also has been indicted in New York in March over a hush-money payment made to a porn star, and he faces federal charges in Florida over allegations he mishandled secret government documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

But the former Republican president has rejected the cases against him as a “witch-hunt” aimed at derailing his re-election bid – a claim that has been embraced by his most ardent supporters.

“Trump is obviously running for president, and the sitting administration is pushing to have their political rival arrested and put in jail,” Cary Arnold, a 56-year-old Republican from Eldersburg, Maryland, told The Associated Press news agency.

“Just on the surface, that’s a very, very bad look. That’s something that you would expect to see in Third World countries that are run by dictators,” he said, adding that he didn’t believe Trump’s actions crossed the line to merit criminal charges.

“I have not seen anything that seemed to be illegal,” Arnold said. “I know people have said that he did things illegally, but none of the things that they’ve said make any sense.”

Even some of the ex-president’s Republican Party rivals have come out in his defence.

“I think it’s an example of this criminalisation of politics,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s top challenger for the Republican nomination, told reporters on Tuesday about the Georgia case.

“I don’t think that this is something that’s good for the country,” DeSantis said.

Wednesday’s poll – conducted from August 10 to 14, just before the charges were announced in Georgia – found that 35 percent of Americans overall hold a favourable view of Trump while 62 percent view him unfavourably.

However, seven in 10 Republicans have favourable views of the former president, and about six in 10 say they want him to make another run for the White House.

The poll also found that 51 percent of US adults believe Trump acted illegally in the Georgia case, which had been looming for weeks before the indictment was formally announced. When divided along party lines, 85 percent of Democrats believe he acted illegally, compared with 16 percent of Republicans.

Meanwhile, Americans say that Trump’s actions after the 2020 presidential election did more to threaten democracy than to defend it – 54 percent to 19 percent.

Republicans are split on the impact of Trump’s decisions: 43 percent say he defended democracy while 23 percent say he threatened it. About a third of Republicans say he neither defended nor threatened democracy.

“Trump and a lot of his supporters are saying, ‘They’re just using this to get at him in the election,'” David Biggar, a 60-year-old Republican from Navarre, Florida, who twice voted against Trump, told AP.

“I think he’s being targeted because he did stuff that he needs to be tried for.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies