New Yahoo News/YouGov poll: With Trump's trial underway, most Americans now believe he falsified records to hide hush money payment

For the first time, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that a majority of Americans (52%) believe former President Donald Trump "falsif[ied] business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star" — the charge at the center of his ongoing criminal trial in Manhattan.

This represents a new high — and a significant increase from previous Yahoo News/YouGov polls conducted before courtroom testimony began last month, suggesting that coverage of the trial may be shifting perceptions of Trump’s conduct.

If the jury agrees, Trump could become the first former U.S. president convicted of a felony.

In contrast, just 22% of Americans say Trump did not falsify business records to hide a hush money payment to a porn star.

The new survey of 1,794 U.S. adults, which was conducted from May 10 to 13, also shows a dip in the former president’s favorable rating — from 45% in March to 41% today.

Americans increasingly accept the case against Trump

Ahead of the 2016 election, Trump's then attorney Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to keep adult film actress Stormy Daniels from going public with her story of an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Cohen has testified that Trump told him to pay Daniels, then signed off on a roundabout reimbursement scheme.

Prosecutors have charged Trump — who categorized his payments to Cohen as legal fees — with 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal criminal activity.

The latest numbers show increasing acceptance of the prosecution’s case against Trump.

Americans now approve of the hush money trial by a 12-point margin (49% to 37%); in April, that margin was 7 points (43% to 36%). The share of Americans who think Trump did, in fact, falsify business records has increased by 4 points since last month, and by 7 points since March 2023. The shares of that group who think Trump committed a crime in doing so (47%) and who say that crime is serious enough to warrant indictment and a trial (40%) are higher than ever before as well.

Likewise, the number of Americans who believe key witness claims are true is much higher than the number who believe they're false:

● “Donald Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels had sex during a 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe”: 45% true, 14% false, 41% not sure.

● “The publisher of the National Enquirer made a deal with Donald Trump to buy and bury negative stories about Trump”: 43% true, 17% false, 40% not sure.

● “The main reason Trump wanted the National Enquirer to buy and bury negative stories about him was to protect his 2016 presidential campaign”: 50% true, 18% false, 32% not sure.

The point about Trump’s motivation is particularly important. Trump has denied having sex with Daniels and claimed that any payments were simply intended to shield his family. Prosecutors have argued that the payments were criminal because they were political in nature.

Possible political consequences for the former president

As for what comes next, a majority of Americans now say that they would approve (51%) rather than disapprove (36%) of Trump being sentenced to prison if found guilty. (The charges against him are punishable by up to four years in prison.) Asked if the judge should jail Trump for any further violations of his gag order — the court has already fined him for verbally attacking jurors — most Americans say yes (54%) rather than no (31%).

Could a conviction have political consequences for Trump? Possibly. In a head-to-head matchup, Trump (45%) and President Biden (45%) remain tied among registered voters, just like they were last month.

But when voters are asked which candidate they would vote for “if Trump is convicted of a serious crime in the coming months,” just 39% say the former president — while Biden’s backing ticks up 1 point in that scenario, to 46%, giving him a 7-point advantage.

Few are following the trial 'very closely'

None of which is to say a hush money conviction would doom Trump on Election Day. For one thing, belief that Trump falsified business records has increased more among Democrats (+8, from 80% to 88%) than among Republicans (+3, from 13% to 16%) — a partisan pattern that’s reflected throughout the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

In addition, few Americans (16%) report following the hush money trial very closely, and only about half (48%) say they are following it either very or somewhat closely. Those numbers rank as some of the lowest for any recent news event. And independents — the voters most likely to swing the election one way or the other — are paying less attention than anyone else (with just 13% following it very closely and only 41% following it very or somewhat closely).

Overall, more Americans say the trial makes them feel “bored” (31%) than “interested” (26%) — while 16% say they’re “confused” and only 6% say they’re “enthusiastic.”

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,794 U.S. adults interviewed online from May 10 to 13, 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 2.7%.

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