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Trump's voters are more excited than Biden's. But Trump could lose a lot if convicted

Former President Donald Trump and President Biden are preparing for a possible rematch in the 2024 election.
José Luis Villegas
/
AP
Former President Donald Trump and President Biden are preparing for a possible rematch in the 2024 election.

The 2024 presidential race could be historic in a number of ways — the front-runner for the Republican nomination is only the fifth ex-president to run for the office, and were he to be nominated against President Biden, it would be only the seventh presidential rematch in history. But perhaps most notably, former President Donald Trump has been indicted four times, on 91 charges, and impeached twice.

According to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, most Americans think Trump has done something wrong. Given the multiple investigations against him, three-quarters of Americans see wrongdoing on Trump's part: 49% believe he has done something illegal, and 26% believe he has done something unethical but not illegal.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are pursuing impeachment against the sitting Democratic president (albeit with no evidence of illegal activity).

A majority, though a smaller one, sees wrongdoing by Biden in relation to his son Hunter Biden's business dealings: 38% believe the president has done something illegal, while 25% believe he has done something unethical but not illegal.

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That's despite the two men being in vastly different legal situations. Trump has been indicted four times at both the state and federal levels, whereas there has been no legal action taken against Biden regarding his son's business dealings. Meanwhile, the House GOP has yet to present evidence of any crimes by Biden.

Unsurprisingly, these poll figures differ widely by party:

  • Nine in 10 Republicans believe Biden has done something wrong in connection to his son's business dealings, along with 7 in 10 independents.
  • In contrast, 1 in 3 Democrats believe the same.
  • Almost all Democrats — 97% — believe Trump has done something wrong, along with three-quarters of independents.
  • Around half of Republicans believe the same.


Notably, two-thirds of Republicans who said they preferred Trump said they would want him to be president even if he is convicted of a crime. That's a solid majority, but it also could be a heavy blow to his reelection.

Independents' reaction to a conviction could also greatly diminish Trump's reelection chances. Among all adults, half of independents prefer Trump, to Biden's 42%. However, among independents who prefer Trump, only one-third say they'd want Trump to be president if he were convicted of a crime.

A flag depicting former President Donald Trump as a superhero hangs from a car with a sign calling for President Biden and his son Hunter Biden to be indicted instead of Trump, as Trump supporters gather at Tropical Park in Miami on June 11.
Rebecca Blackwell / AP
/
AP
A flag depicting former President Donald Trump as a superhero hangs from a car with a sign calling for President Biden and his son Hunter Biden to be indicted instead of Trump, as Trump supporters gather at Tropical Park in Miami on June 11.

A stable, dead heat between Biden and Trump

Biden and Trump are neck and neck in a hypothetical 2024 matchup, with 49% of registered voters supporting Biden, compared with 47% for Trump. That's virtually unchanged since August's NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. That tracks with the RealClearPolitics polling average, which has shown a tightly matched hypothetical race between the two men for months.

Usually at this point in a presidential election cycle, hypothetical matchups are not very meaningful, as voters have not yet gotten to know the various primary candidates.

And it's true that any polling matchup between Biden and Trump is still hypothetical until the GOP nominates a candidate.

But Trump also remains by far the most popular GOP primary candidate. Fully 74% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents view him favorably. Only one other candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is viewed favorably by a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and he's well behind Trump on that measure, with 58%.

Enthusiasm is stronger for Trump than for Biden

Within their parties, both candidates are relatively popular — about three-quarters of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would be satisfied to some degree with Biden as their party's nominee, and three-quarters of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the same of Trump.

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However, the poll shows Trump's voters have more enthusiasm — 43% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would be "very satisfied" with him as their nominee. That is compared with 30% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who would be "very satisfied" to have Biden at the top of the ticket.

And that also leaves both candidates with 1 in 4 of their party's voters unsatisfied.

Art Frasca, a Republican from Waterford, Mich., is one of those voters. Despite having voted for Trump in the past, he doesn't want Trump to be president again. That's not because he dislikes the former president; rather, he thinks Trump's personality simply makes him an ineffective president.

"I think Trump, if he had a Congress that would work with him, things might get done," he explained. "I think people will hinder him just because of his personality. And I don't think we can afford that."

Julie Tyndall, from Pink Hill, N.C., considers herself "left-leaning" — she is an admirer of Bernie Sanders — and voted for Biden in 2020, but she isn't excited about doing so again.

"I feel like Biden is just too old to be running again," she said. "I wouldn't have expected my great-grandfather to be president, because he started slipping, and it seems like Biden's slipping too."

But her frustration also goes deeper — Tyndall has grown disgusted with both political parties.

"They never tend to do anything that's actually beneficial to the country," she said. "They just keep fighting each other, and that's all they care about."

Both Trump and Biden have net-negative favorability ratings, though Trump's is worse. Biden's is at negative 7 percentage points (44% of registered voters see him favorably, compared with 51% unfavorably), whereas Trump's is at negative 19 percentage points (38% favorable to 57% unfavorable).

In addition, roughly one-quarter (26%) of registered voters would like to see neither Biden nor Trump be elected president again in 2024.

Unclear spoiler effect for third-party candidates

Given the share of voters who dislike both Biden and Trump, there has been significant interest in a third-party candidate. However, the poll shows that a Biden-Trump race would remain competitive, even with third-party candidates.

Given the choice of Biden, Trump, a generic Green Party candidate, a generic Libertarian candidate or another generic third-party candidate, 20% of registered voters chose someone other than Biden or Trump or were undecided. Meanwhile, Biden garnered 40% of registered voters to Trump's 39%.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.