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Don't call them 'witch hunts.' Most Americans say investigations into Trump are fair

Former President Donald Trump gestures to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally at Waco Regional Airport Saturday, March 25, 2023, in Waco, Texas.
Nathan Howard
/
AP
Former President Donald Trump gestures to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally at Waco Regional Airport Saturday, March 25, 2023, in Waco, Texas.

A majority of Americans say the multiple criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump's conduct are fair, despite Trump's continued efforts claiming they are conspiracies against him, the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds.

The survey of more than 1,300 adults also found that despite the love for him among Republicans, Trump remains highly disliked, continues to struggle mightily with independents — and 6 in 10 Americans don't want him to be president again.

The results come as Trump has raised the specter of his potential arrest, due to a hush money investigation out of New York. Trump faces at least three other criminal investigations — two federal, stemming from classified documents found at his Florida home and one examining his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, as well as one from Georgia, looking at his pressure campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election he lost.

They also come as Trump held his first presidential campaign rally Saturday in Waco, Texas, where he baselessly described the investigations as the result of "prosecutorial misconduct."

"Prosecutorial misconduct is their new tool," Trump said, "and they're willing to use it at levels never seen before in our country. We've had it, but we've never had it like this. We must stop them and we must not allow them to go through another election where they have yet another tool in their tool kit."

But most Americans don't agree with him. By a 56%-to-41% margin respondents said the investigations are fair and not a "witch hunt."

As expected, there's a huge partisan divide — 9 in 10 Democrats say they are fair, while 8 in 10 Republicans call them a witch hunt. A slim majority of independents call them fair, but they are closely split, 51% to 47%.

Those most likely to say the investigations are fair are those in the Gen Z and millennial generations, people who live in big cities and suburbs, and white college graduates, especially college-educated white women.

The latter is a demographic that's been one of the most reliable Democratic voting — and anti-Trump — groups.

Those most likely to say the investigations are a witch hunt were core Trump supporting groups: white men without degrees, white evangelical Christians and those who live in small towns.

Three-quarters say Trump has either done something illegal (46%) or unethical (29%). Only a quarter (23%) think he's done nothing wrong.

In a mirror of public perception about the ongoing investigations, those most likely to think Trump did something illegal are white college grads, especially white, college-educated women, women who live in small cities and suburbs and people who live in the Northeast.

But just 10% of Republicans think Trump did something illegal. They are more split when it comes to whether Trump did something unethical or nothing wrong — 45% say nothing wrong, 43% say he's done something unethical but not illegal.

That reflects the split in the GOP primary. About half of rank-and-file Republican voters appear to be open to someone else, but Trump clearly still has a lock on a significant portion of the GOP.

Republicans also like Trump a lot — 8 in 10 have a favorable opinion of him. But, more broadly, Trump remains highly unpopular.

Just 39% overall have a favorable opinion of Trump, 51% have a negative view. That includes just 37% of independents who have a positive view of him.

Even though Trump's 2024 campaign is well underway, 61% of respondents don't want Trump to be president, including almost two-thirds of independents.

For Republicans, it's a different story — three-quarters do want Trump to be president again.

So Trump remains very popular with the base, but politically toxic with everyone else. That represents a real conundrum for the GOP because with numbers like those, it's hard to see how Trump wins a general election, but also hard to see how he loses the Republican nomination — without a sustained effort from others in the party to go after his glaring vulnerabilities that have cost the GOP in recent elections.

The survey of 1,327 adults, including 1,226 registered voters, was conducted from Monday, March 20 through Thursday, March 23. It was done by telephone with live callers to cellphones and landlines, as well as by text message and online and in English and Spanish. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

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

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.