After Trump felony conviction, Biden leads for 1st time in months — but not by much

In the wake of former President Donald Trump’s felony conviction last week for falsifying business records to hide a hush money payment to a porn star, President Biden (46%) now leads his Republican rival (44%) in a two-way race for the White House for the first time since October 2023, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The past six Yahoo News/YouGov surveys showed Trump leading or tied with Biden among registered voters in a head-to-head matchup. At 46%, Biden’s current level of support is his highest since August 2023.

Yet even with Trump’s felony conviction factored in, the 2024 contest remains so close that Biden’s narrow lead vanishes once voters are given third-party options on a follow-up question.

In that scenario, Trump loses just 1 point of support, slipping to 43%; Biden (42%) sheds 4 points and falls behind.

Meanwhile, 9% of voters opt for “another candidate” — and then, when presented with specific names to choose from, they primarily select independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (4%) followed by independent Cornel West, Libertarian Chase Oliver and Green Party nominee Jill Stein at 1% apiece.

The survey of 1,854 U.S. adults, which was conducted from June 3 to 6, highlights the fine margins that will likely decide this year’s Trump-Biden rematch.

The problem for Biden is not that Americans believe Trump is innocent. In fact, far more of them — a 51% majority — think the New York jury reached the “right verdict” in Trump’s hush money case than think the verdict was “wrong” (30%). Likewise, more Americans than ever (54%) now believe Trump committed the crime for which he was on trial.

Overall, 52% say Trump’s conviction was a “fair outcome meant to hold him accountable for his own actions”; just 35% who say it was “an unfair outcome meant to damage him politically.” And 49% think Trump was “more of a criminal” in the trial, versus 34% who consider him “more of a victim.”

But Trump’s conviction hasn’t really changed how Americans see him. For instance:

● 42% of Americans now rate Trump favorably, and 53% rate him unfavorably — slightly better than his 41%-55% rating last month, before the conviction.

● 40% of Americans now consider Trump “fit to serve another term as president,” and 47% do not — essentially identical to his 41%-46% split in May.

● And 44% of Americans now say the criminal charges against Trump are a “big problem” when it comes to his fitness to be president — unchanged from his number in April, the last time the question was asked.

In other words, public opinion of Trump is so baked in at this point that not even his new status as America’s first “felon president” can alter it. And this dynamic is especially true among those least inclined to accept unflattering information about the former president: his supporters.

On previous Yahoo News/YouGov surveys, a small subset of Trump supporters expressed uncertainty about how they might view a potential conviction in the hush money case — and indicated possible second thoughts about voting for Trump in that scenario.

In April, for example, 17% of Trump supporters said he should not be allowed to serve as president again “if convicted of a serious crime in the coming months.” And in May, 14% indicated they would shift away from supporting Trump if he were to be “convicted of a crime in the hush money case” (with 10% unsure who they would support, 4% saying they would not vote at all and 1% flipping to Biden).

As a result, Biden led Trump by 7 points in the May poll — 46% to 39% — when voters were asked which candidate they would back in the hypothetical case of a Trump conviction.

Obviously, the vast majority of Trump’s previously squeamish supporters have decided to stick with him now that his conviction is a reality.

But why, and how? By changing their view of the crime itself. In six surveys conducted by Yahoo News and YouGov between June 2023 and April 2024, at least a quarter of Republicans (between 25% and 29%) said they considered “falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star” to be a “serious crime.”

But last month, that number dropped to 18%. Now, post-conviction, it is just 9%.

In contrast, the corresponding “serious crime” number among Democrats is 79% — essentially unchanged over the past year.

Similarly, 81% of current Trump supporters think the jury reached the wrong verdict last week; 83% say Trump was more of a victim than a criminal in the trial; and 87% believe the outcome was unfair and meant to damage him politically.

Given that, just 2% of Trump supporters now say he should not be allowed to serve as president after being convicted of “34 felony counts of falsifying business records.” Again, the number of Trump supporters who said the same in May — assuming a conviction for a “serious crime” — was 17%.

Still, the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll does show a small shift in Biden’s direction — a result consistent with other post-conviction surveys.

The shift is so modest that it’s well within the poll’s 2.8% margin of error. And it disappears entirely when swing voters can choose third-party candidates instead of the incumbent.

Yet at the very least, Biden’s improvement on a two-way ballot suggests that being found guilty of 34 felony counts is not good news for Trump.

The next beat in the former president’s legal saga is his sentencing, which is currently scheduled for July 11. Slightly more Americans think Trump should get a prison sentence (43%) than think he should not (40%).

After that, Trump faces three additional criminal trials, all of which have been delayed indefinitely. Yet a full 64% of Americans now say it is important “that voters get a verdict in Trump’s trials before the 2024 general election” — versus just 25% who say it is not important.

Trump’s conviction in the hush money case may have even made some otherwise skeptical Democrats and independents more inclined to believe that Trump is guilty of other crimes. The number of Americans who now think Trump “conspired to overturn the results of a presidential election,” for instance, has grown from 45% to 50% since January (which includes a 79% to 88% uptick among Democrats, plus a 45% to 50% uptick among independents). And belief that Trump is guilty of “taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them” has increased from 48% to 52% over the same period (with similar gains among Democrats and independents).

Whether these changes carry any political consequences for the former president remains to be seen. Legal experts think it’s unlikely that any of Trump’s other trials will conclude before Election Day. Yet if they did, and if Trump were “convicted of ANOTHER serious crime in the coming months,” voters again say they would favor Biden by a 46% to 40% margin.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,854 U.S. adults interviewed online from June 3 to 6, 2024. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to Nov. 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.8%.

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