Most Americans approve of Trump’s indictment stemming from his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office, even as 71% say politics played a role in that charging decision.
Though Trump continues to lead the GOP field by a wide margin in the race for the Republican Party’s nomination for president, the poll suggests that his support has declined, as have positive views of him among Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Nearly a quarter now say they would not consider backing his candidacy under any circumstances. The survey also finds that those GOP-aligned voters not currently backing his 2024 bid have different views on his indictment and behavior than those in his corner.
Still, there’s little sign that Republican-aligned voters who aren’t backing Trump are consolidating behind any one of his rivals. Nor are they unified around wanting Trump out of the race entirely, or in feeling that his primary opponents ought to call him out for his alleged actions in this case.
Overall, 47% of Republicans and Republican-leaning registered voters say Trump is their first choice for the party’s nomination for president, down from 53% in a May CNN poll. Support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held steady at 26% in the latest poll, with former Vice President Mike Pence at 9%, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley at 5%, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott at 4%, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 3% and the remaining candidates at 1% or less.
In addition to the decline in support for Trump’s candidacy, his favorability rating among Republican-aligned voters has dipped, from 77% in May to 67% now, while the share who say they would not support him for the nomination under any circumstances has climbed, from 16% in May to 23% now. At the same time, there has been a similar increase in the share saying they would not back DeSantis under any circumstances (up 6 points to 21%), while the shares ruling out other top candidates have held roughly steady.
The poll was completed entirely after Trump’s arraignment in federal court last week, and Republican and Republican-leaning voters participating in the poll were asked questions about the 2024 presidential race before any mention of the charges facing Trump.
Few in the GOP want to see Trump drummed out of the race or repudiated by his party in response to the indictment. A 54% majority of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say that Trump’s conduct doesn’t matter much to them as they consider his candidacy, because a president’s effectiveness matters more.
Just 12% say that in responding to the indictment, other Republican candidates for the nomination should focus on publicly condemning Trump’s alleged actions in this case, with 42% saying candidates should do more to publicly condemn the government’s prosecution of Trump, and 45% that they shouldn’t take a stand either way. Even those who do not currently back Trump for the nomination mostly want to see other candidates remain quiet on the indictment (54% say so), with 21% calling for Trump’s rivals to condemn his actions and 25% saying they should condemn the prosecution.
And only 26% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say that Trump should end his campaign in light of the federal charges he now faces, with an additional 16% saying he should end his campaign if he is convicted of federal crimes.
Most Americans view charges as disqualifying
Outside of the Republican Party, though, these charges are broadly viewed as disqualifying. Among all Americans, 59% say that Trump ought to end his campaign now that he’s facing federal charges, with another 11% saying he should do so if convicted on these charges. Among all registered voters who are not aligned with the Republican Party, there’s broad agreement: 85% say Trump should end his campaign now, and another 7% that he should end it if he’s convicted.
Most US adults, 55%, say that Trump acted illegally in the situation involving these classified documents, with 30% saying that he acted unethically but not illegally, and just 15% that he did nothing wrong. The partisan divide in views of Trump’s actions has widened since earlier this year. Compared with a January survey, more Democrats (up 10 points to 89%) and independents (up 7 points to 59%) now say they believe Trump acted illegally, but the share of Republicans who feel that way has dropped (down 7 points to 18%).
Overall, even as 61% of Americans approve of the decision to indict the former president, majorities across party lines believe politics played a role in the decision to charge him, including 53% of Democrats, 67% of independents and 92% of Republicans.
Public approval of the federal indictment is roughly equal to approval of the charges brought against Trump in Manhattan related to hush money payments made to an adult film star. As in that case, approval on the federal charges is sharply split by party, with 94% of Democrats and 67% of independents approving, while just 25% of Republicans feel the same way. Slightly fewer overall say this indictment was motivated by politics than said the same of the New York charges (76%).
Most Americans, 57%, say that Trump’s handling of the documents involved in the case put national security at risk, including 88% of Democrats and 67% of independents, though only 18% of Republicans feel that way. A 55% majority of the public, including most Democrats (90%) and independents (55%), views Trump’s handling of the documents involved as different than what other presidents have done, with 45%, including 76% of Republicans, saying it’s similar to the actions of previous presidents.
Still, Republican views on Trump’s actions are far from uniform. The roughly half of GOP-aligned voters who currently back Trump in the 2024 primary staunchly proclaim his innocence, while those backing other candidates are often more tepid in their defense of his actions.
A sizable 40% minority of non-Trump GOP voters approve of his indictment on these federal charges. And those who do disapprove tend to feel less strongly about it (28% strongly disapprove among non-Trump Republicans) than do those currently backing Trump (76% strongly disapprove).
Most Republican and Republican-leaning voters who support Trump for the nomination say he did nothing wrong in this case (58%) and just 3% that he acted illegally. Those Republican and Republican-leaning voters who support other candidates, though, broadly say Trump acted unethically (52%) or illegally (31%), with only 16% saying he did nothing wrong.
A near-universal 97% of the former president’s current supporters say he did not put national security at risk, compared with a smaller 67% majority of those who do not support him for the nomination.
Views of Trump’s electability have changed little since March, with Republican and Republican-leaning voters remaining roughly evenly divided over whether the GOP’s chances of winning the presidency are better with or without Trump (51% say they have a better chance to win with him, 49% without him). About half (52%) say it’s very or extremely likely that Trump will win the Republican nomination, nearly unchanged since May.
Trump’s supporters within the GOP remain mostly locked in, with 79% of those who indicate he is their first choice saying they definitely will support him for the nomination, compared with 51% of DeSantis backers who say the same about the Florida governor and just 30% among those backing other candidates.
More broadly, among all registered voters, the indictment appears to have had little effect on their motivation to participate in next year’s presidential election. Six in 10 say they are extremely motivated to vote, about the same as in May, with roughly equal shares of Republican-tilting (65%) and Democratic-aligned (62%) voters feeling driven to vote.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS from June 13-17 among a random national sample of 1,350 adults drawn from a probability-based panel, including 561 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results among the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 points; among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, the margin of sampling error is 5.2 points.