Court of public opinion: Most Americans now believe Trump did falsify hush money records

Despite Republican leaders’ best efforts, Americans don’t believe Mr Trump’s trial is a ‘sham’

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 15 May 2024 23:30
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Related video: Eric Trump refuses to answer when asked if his father signed off on all expenses

As Donald Trump's New York hush money trial continues into its fifth week, recent polling shows that – despite the best efforts of a parade of Republican opportunists decrying the trial as a sham – most Americans believe the former president falsified records to cover up his alleged payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

A new Yahoo News/YouGov survey, released on Tuesday, shows that while most Americans – 52 percent – believe Mr Trump paid off Ms Daniels, fewer than half, 40 percent, believe the crime warranted an indictment and a trial.

The poll includes data showing that Americans' attitudes about the trial have shifted over time. In April 2023, only around 45 percent of Americans believed Mr Trump falsified records, and approximately 30 percent believed the alleged crime was serious enough to warrant the proceedings.

All of those numbers spiked in the weeks since the trial began.

Donald Trump in New York during his hush money trial. Recent polling found that more than half of Americans believe he falsified records to cover up payments to Stormy Daniels

The polling results indicate Republican leaders trying to cast the trial as a Democrat-led witch hunt are failing to turn the tide of public opinion against the Justice Department.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Tuesday the trial was intended to keep Mr Trump from campaigning for re-election.

“This is the fifth week that President Trump has been in court for this sham of a trial,” he said.

“The conviction or acquittal — either way, the American people see this as a sham, and rightfully so,” Senator JD Vance told Fox News on Tuesday.

The numbers don’t reflect their sentiment. Only 37 percent of respondents disapprove of the trial — the only polling number that has remained fairly consistent since April of last year.

Respondents who say Mr Trump did not falsify records or did so but did not commit a crime in doing so account for only 24 percent of the responses.

Another poll, conducted by YouGov last week for the Economist, found that most Americans — 51 percent to 34 percent — believe it would be appropriate for Mr Trump to face jail time if he continues to violate his gag order imposed by the judge overseeing the hush money case.

That said, more Americans said they did not believe Mr Trump had, thus far, received a fair trial. A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released last week showed that 44 percent of Americans believe Mr Trump's trial has been unfair, while 39 percent said it has been to this point.

Those results do not necessarily mean the respondents believe Mr Trump is a victim of the court. Some of those who believe Mr Trump has not received a fair trial are voices from the left who believe the former president has received special treatment, the Washington Post reports.

Mr Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records – including the invoices, ledgers and checks – tied to an alleged hush money scheme to silence Ms Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election, when her story about having sex with Mr Trump in 2006 threatened to derail his chances of winning, according to testimony.

He has pleaded not guilty and denied ever having sex with Ms Daniels.

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