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GOP support for Trump softens as the former president's legal troubles mount

Former President Trump speaks at a conservative conference in Washington last month.
Drew Angerer
/
Getty Images
Former President Trump speaks at a conservative conference in Washington last month.

The pile-on effect of mounting legal charges against former President Trump may be starting to take a toll, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying they believe Trump has done "nothing wrong" dropped 9 points in the last month, from 50% to 41%.

Trump also dropped 6 points in support with that same group when asked whether they were more likely to support Trump or another candidate, if he continues to run for president.

Still, a solid majority — 58% — continue to say they would support Trump as their standard-bearer, so more polling and time would be necessary to see if this is a trend, if it continues and if it has a real effect on his chances in the GOP primary. He continues to lead the field by wide margins.

At the same time, though, Trump has become increasingly toxic with the political middle, and this survey bears that out. A slim majority — 51% — of respondents overall said they think Trump did something illegal, including 52% of independents.

The findings come as Trump is likely set to face yet another indictment, his third, for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, and potentially a fourth in a Georgia election interference case.

The survey of 1,285 adults, including 455 Republicans was conducted from Monday through Thursday. When all adults are noted, there is a +/- 3.6 percentage point margin of error, meaning the results could range from about 4 points lower to 4 points higher. When Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are noted, there is a higher +/- 6.1 percentage point margin of error.

The poll was conducted before the latest news Thursday afternoon of Trump facing an additional charge in the federal classified documents case against him.

This is nothing more than a continued desperate and flailing attempt by the Biden Crime Family and their Department of Justice to harass President Trump and those around him

Trump responds as the base looks on

Trump has responded to the looming indictment and the additional charge of willful retention of National Defense Information he's now facing by blasting the Justice Department and the Biden administration and claiming to be targeted because of politics.

"This is nothing more than a continued desperate and flailing attempt by the Biden Crime Family and their Department of Justice to harass President Trump and those around him," the Trump campaign said in a written statement of the new charge.

In an interview with the conservative web site Breitbart, Trump claimed "harassment" and "election interference" on the part of the government.

"They did this to try and get me out," he said, also claiming, "It's lifted my numbers."

But the results of this survey show that's not completely true. Just as Trump's ironclad grip last year seemed to be loosening, the search at his Florida home did lift his numbers with Republicans.

The search helped to solidify him with a significant swath of the base, which believes Trump's assertions that he's the victim of political persecution. But some Republicans are now arguing that Trump is not electable and brings too much baggage.

Many of Trump's top GOP primary opponents have not made a public case against Trump relating to his legal woes. Two political action committees, however, have begun to run millions of dollars worth of ads in early states taking direct aim at Trump's "baggage" and "drama."

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.
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