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GOP Voters Remain Strongly Supportive of Trump Despite Legal Challenges

A recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS indicates that former President Donald Trump maintains a commanding lead in the Republican field of candidates vying to challenge President Joe Biden in the next election. Trump enjoys the support of 52% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters, outpacing his closest competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, by more than 30 percentage points. Furthermore, Trump is perceived as adept at addressing a wide range of issues.

Over 40% of potential GOP primary voters have firmly decided to back Trump for the nomination, while around 20% support another candidate, and approximately 37% remain undecided or open to changing their preference. Nearly two-thirds of these voters consider Trump as one of their top two choices, with 61% believing he is highly likely to secure the party’s nomination—an increase from 52% earlier this summer. Many respondents believe that the criminal charges against Trump are not relevant to his capacity to serve as president, and a majority are not seriously concerned about the potential impact of these charges on his electability.

Though Trump’s numbers remain strong, the poll suggests that his appeal has slightly diminished among a segment of the Republican Party. Roughly 20% of Republican-aligned voters express a refusal to support Trump under any circumstances, while 16% view the charges related to his involvement in the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack as disqualifying if proven true. Despite this, this group has not coalesced around any particular alternative candidate.

DeSantis is the only other candidate to achieve double-digit support in the poll, although his backing has decreased by 8 points since June. Following him, former Vice President Mike Pence and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley each receive 7% support, while businessman Vivek Ramaswamy garners 6%. Senator Tim Scott and former Governor Chris Christie both have 3% and 2% support, respectively, and the rest of the candidates polled at 1% or less.

Trump’s Favorability and Perceived Abilities

Trump’s standing as the preferred choice has rebounded since CNN’s June poll, although the percentage of those considering him among their top two choices or having a favorable view of him remains lower than in previous months. Trump’s favorability has increased by 5 percentage points as a first choice, including upticks among White college-educated voters (up 6 points since June) and self-identified Republicans (up 10 points). However, the 63% of GOP-aligned voters who rank him in their top two choices is roughly the same as in June (61%), which marks a decline from May (68%). His overall favorability rating with this group is 69%, down from 77% in May. Among his current supporters, 94% view him favorably, while only 42% of those not currently backing him in the primary share this sentiment.

Concerns Regarding Criminal Charges

A minority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (44%) express significant worry that Trump’s criminal charges could hinder his chances of winning the 2024 election if he secures the Republican nomination, while 56% do not find this concerning. Among Trump supporters, 34% express this concern, rising to 54% among those supporting other candidates.

Republican-aligned individuals exhibit less concern about how Trump’s legal battles could affect his ability to serve a full term if reelected (32% are seriously concerned) or his effectiveness as president while facing criminal charges (35%).

Generally, Republican voters believe that the charges against Trump are not relevant to his fitness for the presidency. A substantial majority (70%) opine that these charges, which encompass various criminal cases, do not impact his suitability to be president. Similarly, 61% contend that Trump faces numerous criminal charges due to political misuse of the justice system.

When asked to identify their main concern about Trump as a candidate, legal issues are rarely mentioned. Only 6% cite Trump’s indictments or legal situation, while 3% express concern over potential conviction or imprisonment. Approximately 18% have no apprehensions about Trump or offer positive comments about him. Other notable concerns include the fear that opponents will not collaborate with Trump (8%), his communication style (8%), his perceived unpopularity and unfair treatment (7%), and his ego or arrogance (6%).

Character vs. Policy Considerations

Republican-aligned voters who have a preferred candidate generally prioritize policy positions (77%) over character traits when deciding their vote. Only 14% claim to decide based on character, with 8% selecting their candidate due to a dislike of other choices. Trump supporters overwhelmingly believe that policy positions are the primary driver of their preference (89%), in contrast with other candidate backers (63%).

Trump’s Competence and Issue Handling

Trump is widely regarded as the most capable candidate across various issues. DeSantis is the closest competitor to Trump’s performance, trailing by 20 points on education and school policies. Trump is viewed as best suited for handling the economy (69%), immigration (65%), Ukraine situation (63%), government overreach (59%), and crime and safety (54%). Around 49% consider Trump most competent in climate and energy policies, while fewer associate him with abortion (44%) and education and school policies (42%). DeSantis consistently ranks second behind Trump on most issues, with two exceptions. Haley (8%), Pence (7%), and DeSantis (7%) vie for second place on Ukraine, while DeSantis (14%) and Haley (13%) are second-tier contenders on abortion. GOP Voters Remain Strongly Supportive of Trump Despite Legal Challenges

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