American division on Trump indictment deepens

ABC News/Ipsos poll: As independent Americans move away from the former president, a majority say he intentionally acted illegally

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Johnny Sawyer Senior Research Manager, US, Public Affairs
  • Tyler Ivey Research Analyst
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Washington DC, April 9, 2023 -- In a second poll fielded a week after news broke about former President Donald Trump’s indictment on charges related to falsifying business records in hush money payments, the divisions among Americans regarding Trump continue to deepen. This comes as independents and people who were undecided on this issue last week look to be moving away from the former president by small margins. The poll also finds that a majority of Americans believe Trump intentionally acted illegally.

Currently, just over half of Americans (52%) view the charges against Trump as serious (was 50% last week). Additionally, half of Americans (50%) say Trump should have been charged with a crime in this case, up five percentage points from last week. The slight changes in both cases look to be drawing from people who said “don’t know” in the earlier survey, a number that is down six percentage points in both questions.

  • Deepening polarization is apparent on the question of the seriousness of the charges. While the topline number has barely changed from 50% serious / 36% not serious last week to 52% serious / 39% not serious this week, the percentage saying “very serious” is up 6 points while the number saying “not serious at all” is up 4 points.
  • Undecided Americans drifting away from the former president is shown on the question of if Trump should have been charged. Half (50%) now say Trump should have been charged in this case, up 5 points from 45% last week. Most of the difference appears to come from people saying “don’t know” which is down 6 points, from 23% to 17%.
    • A similar trend is visible on the question of if Donald Trump should suspend his presidential campaign because of the indictment. Nearly half (48%) say he should, up five points from 43% last week. Here too, the number of Americans saying don’t know has fallen 6 points from 22% to 16%.
  • In a new question, most Americans (53%) believe that Trump intentionally did something illegal in this case. About one in ten (11%) say he acted wrong but it wasn’t intentional, and a fifth (20%) believe he did nothing wrong.

ABC/Ipsos Graph

Washington DC, April 2, 2023 -- In the wake of former President Donald Trump’s indictment on charges related to a payment of hush money to an adult film actress, half of Americans view the charges as serious (compared to one-third who say they are not), and nearly as many feel that Trump should be charged with a crime, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll shows. Around half also feel that Trump should be charged for a crime for his actions related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and for his efforts to change the 2020 election results. However, roughly one in five remain undecided on these questions, and many see these actions as politically motivated, demonstrating how American public opinion may not yet be fully formed on the topic.

ABC/Ipsos Graph

  1. Most Americans view the hush money-related charges against Trump as serious, yet there are deep partisan divisions on the outlook toward the indictment.
    1. Overall, 50% say the indictment, which came one day before this poll was fielded, is serious, including slim majorities of women, Americans under age 30, Black and Hispanic Americans, and those with a college degree.
    2. Political party divisions run deep, as 87% of Democrats view these charges as serious, compared to just 29% of Republicans. Independents are evenly split, 43% serious – 41% not serious. These divides cut across all questions, from severity of the charges to whether or not Trump should be charged with a crime for different issues.
  2. When asked about four different investigations around Trump (including the current one), more believe he should be charged with a crime than not.
    1. In this current case, 45% believe Trump should be charged with a crime (32% say he should not). The same number say he should be charged with a crime for the way he handled classified documents after he left office as president.
    2. Similarly, 49% say he should be charged for his actions related to January 6th, and a bare majority – 51% - feel the same about his efforts to change the results of the 2020 presidential election.
    3. In light of the indictment, 43% are looking for him to suspend his presidential campaign, while 35% say he should not.
    4. In all cases, political independents lean slightly toward thinking he should be charged, though there is not majority support for charges among this group.
  3. An equal number of Americans – nearly half – feel the charges against Trump are politically motivated. While this looks similar overall to how many think he should be charged, it is driven by an outcry from his base, whereas other attitudes are driven by Democrats.
    1. Overall, 47% say the charges against Trump in this case are politically motivated, while 32% disagree.
    2. Here, however, we see the inverse of attitudes toward whether or not Trump should be charged. In this case, eight in ten Republicans say the charges are politically motivated. Sixteen percent of Democrats agree.
    3. When asked if Trump should be charged in this current case, nearly nine in ten Democrats say he should be, and just 16% of Republicans agree.
  4. Ultimately, many Americans remain undecided on whether Trump should be charged with a crime, leaving open the possibility for them to be swayed both by how the events unfold and the coverage around them.
    1. Twenty-three percent are unsure if Trump should be charged in this current case. Indecision is higher among younger Americans, independents, and women.
    2. Looking at other cases, the number of undecided Americans ranges from 16% to 21%.

About the Study

This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted April 6 to 7, 2023, by Ipsos using the probability-based KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 566 adults age 18 or older.

One respondent was removed from the final data for refusing all of the survey items

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population. KnowledgePanel members receive a per survey incentive, usually the equivalent of $1 (though for some it is $2) in points, that can be redeemed for cash or prizes. A prenotification email for this study was sent two days prior to field. Given the short field period, no reminder emails were sent for this study. Panelists receive a unique login to the survey and are only able to complete it one time.   

The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, and party identification. The demographic benchmarks came from 2022 Current Population Survey (CPS) from the US Census Bureau. Party ID benchmarks are from recent ABC News/Washington Post telephone polls. The weighting categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (High School graduate or less, Some College, Bachelor and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
  • Party ID (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Something else)

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.16. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. Sampling error is only one potential source of error. There may be other unmeasured non-sampling error in this or any poll. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Mallory Newall
Vice President, US
Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2014
[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is one of the largest market research and polling companies globally, operating in 90 markets and employing over 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

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The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Johnny Sawyer Senior Research Manager, US, Public Affairs
  • Tyler Ivey Research Analyst