Trump’s felony convictions are having minimal impact on his campaign

A chronicle of Donald Trump's Crimes or Allegations

Trump’s felony convictions are having minimal impact on his campaign

For months, the most pressing question of the 2024 campaign has been: What would the impact of a conviction on any felony charges — let alone 34 — be on Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency? 

Early on, pundits and legal scholars speculated that a guilty verdict would be devastating. Indeed, an October Times/Siena poll found that a guilty verdict would swing the election firmly in Biden’s favor, forecasting a 10-point margin of victory for the incumbent president, 49 percent to 39 percent. 

Yet at the time that poll was conducted, it appeared that Trump would also be standing trial in all or some of his other cases — mishandling classified documents, as well as the voter and election interference cases — ahead of November’s election.  

However, now that it is almost certain that the New York City “hush money” case — long considered the weakest and least politically significant — will be the only case to conclude before the election, it increasingly appears that a conviction will have little to no impact on Trump’s chances. 

The latest Times/Siena poll, released on June 5th, re-interviewed 2,000 voters who had participated in their April and May polls. When first interviewed, voters preferred Trump over Biden by 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent.  

After the verdict, Biden had gained 2 points on Trump among this group, making the race 47 percent to 46 percent in favor of Trump, a virtual tie. 

Such a small shift away from Trump — well within the margin of error — despite the intense media attention surrounding the trial, likely falls short of what many Democrats had hoped or expected. 

While some polls, such as the aforementioned New York Times/Siena survey, show a slight negative impact on Trump, others indicate that the picture is actually much murkier. 

Two other polls also conducted after Trump’s conviction suggest the race was hardly impacted. According to HarrisX, a plurality (44 percent) of voters said the verdict would have no impact on their vote while the remainder was virtually split, if not actually more supportive of Trump.  

Three in 10 (30 percent) voters said they would be more likely to vote for the convicted former president, while 27 percent say they are less likely.  

An Emerson College poll reflects similar sentiments, revealing that nearly six in 10 (58 percent) undecided voters say the conviction will not impact their vote. 

And while national polls point to a mixed impact, polling in swing states should worry Democrats. In a handful of states that will decide this election, it appears that not only will the conviction not hurt Trump, but it may actually help him. 

The most recent polling from Fox News shows that post-verdict, Trump has improved his lead to 5 points in Arizona (51 percent to 46 percent) and Nevada (50 percent to 45 percent). Notably, the Fox poll shows a tie in Virginia (48 percent each), a state Biden won by 10 points in 2020. 

Quite simply, as we wrote in these pages prior to the verdict, this election will turn on the issues, particularly inflation, the economy and immigration.  

And on the issues that actually matter to voters, Donald Trump maintains a considerable lead over Biden, particularly on the economy and immigration. As such, even if some voters are uncomfortable at the thought of electing a convicted felon to the presidency, dissatisfaction at Biden’s handling of these critical issues figures to outweigh any ill feelings towards Trump.  

Further, the timing of the verdict was very much in Trump’s favor, coming more than five months before the election and ahead of a very busy summer.  

Both Republicans and Democrats still have to hold their party conventions in July, Trump still has to announce his running mate, Hunter Biden’s criminal trial started only last week and we are involved in two ongoing wars in Israel and Ukraine. 

Put another way, the verdict will be considered old news, replaced by more relevant, recent developments. In particular, voters will have the opportunity — barring any charades from the Trump or Biden camp — to see the candidates face off head-to-head in two presidential debates.  

To that point, if Biden fails to soothe voter concerns over his age and fitness, Trump’s convictions will be nothing more than a footnote. Conversely, if Trump appears overly bombastic and irresponsible, his convictions may resonate a little more in the context of his general temperament for office. 

Ultimately, this election will be decided by kitchen-table issues that impact Americans far more than it will be decided by Donald Trump’s legal issues. And notwithstanding what Biden did this week on the border or in Normandy — changes to border policy have been too little, too late. And it’s unlikely, however moving and appropriate, that Biden’s remarks in France shifted voter concerns to issues of democracy and maintaining international order. 

Douglas E. Schoen and Carly Cooperman are pollsters and partners with the public opinion company Schoen Cooperman Research based in New York. They are co-authors of the book, “America: Unite or Die.”