Poll: Trump's big post-indictment bounce is fading fast

The former president's lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary has shrunk 10 points since late March.

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Former President Donald Trump onstage at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum.

Former President Donald Trump got a big bounce among Republican primary voters after his indictment in New York in late March — but now that swell of support seems to be fading fast, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The survey of 1,530 U.S. adults, which was conducted from April 14 to 17, suggests that Trump remains vulnerable — and far from inevitable — in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Just two weeks ago, Trump was lapping Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, his strongest potential challenger, by 26 percentage points in a one-on-one matchup among voters who describe themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents (57% to 31%). It was the former president’s widest lead to date.

Since then, however, Trump’s advantage over DeSantis has shrunk by 10 points (52% to 36%).

And while Trump retains majority support — just barely — in a head-to-head face-off against DeSantis, he has slipped back under 50% when pitted against the full Republican field, falling 3 points (to 49%) since the beginning of April.

For the first time since February, fewer than half of Republican voters now say they would prefer Trump (49%, down 5 points) to “someone else” as the party’s nominee. Instead, most say they would prefer someone else (39%) or that they’re not sure (12%).

It’s possible that Trump’s initial post-indictment bump was inflated by fans who were so eager to express their outrage that they were (temporarily) more responsive to pollsters. The new Yahoo News/YouGov survey may represent a return to more normal response patterns.

It’s also worth noting that Trump is still polling better today than he was earlier this year. Trump’s two-way lead over DeSantis, for example, is twice as large as it was in late February and mid-March. And as recently as early February, it was DeSantis who was narrowly ahead of Trump, 45% to 41%.

Yet the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll indicates that Trump won’t be able to ride right-wing indictment backlash all the way to the nomination — let alone the White House.

Case in point: The number of Americans who approve of Trump “being indicted for falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star” has increased by 5 percentage points over the last two weeks (to 47%, up from 42%) while disapproval has fallen (to 37%, down from 39%). The number who think Trump did what he’s been accused of has risen as well (to 48%, up from 45%), and about the same share (47%) say Trump’s actions constitute a crime (versus just 31% who say they do not). Among registered voters, a majority (51%) now believe Trump committed a crime in this case; only 34% say he did not commit a crime.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference.
Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Public opinion, in other words, is trending against the former president — and that’s true even among Republicans. Today, 19% of them approve of Trump’s indictment; two weeks ago, that number was 12%.

Meanwhile, President Biden’s numbers are moving in the opposite direction. Though Biden’s job approval rating remains below 50% among all Americans, it is now at its highest level (44%) since September 2021 (up from about 40% for much of 2022). His approval rating on the economy (at 40%) is now 4 points higher than it was in early February, while his approval rating on inflation (36%) has increased by 5 points over the same period. And he does 3 or 4 points better on each of those measures among registered voters.

Despite the improvement, Biden’s approval numbers are still lower than the White House would like them to be heading into 2024. Yet the current trend lines seem to be favoring the president. In a general election matchup, Biden now enjoys a 4-point edge over both Trump (46% to 42%) and DeSantis (45% to 41%) among registered voters. One month ago, Biden led Trump by just 2 points, and he was tied with DeSantis.

Going forward, the question that will shadow Trump’s comeback bid is whether Republicans see his legal woes as reason to rally around him — or reason to gravitate toward an alternative with less baggage. Beyond the hush money payments, Trump is also under criminal investigation for a number of other alleged offenses, including trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election and inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, as well as taking highly classified documents with him to his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., after leaving office. Further indictments are possible.

Supporters of Donald Trump wave signs and flags as they wait for the former president's motorcade.
Trump supporters wait for the former president's motorcade to make its way back to his Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Fla., following his arraignment in New York on April 4. (Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Already, most registered voters (51%) think Trump should not be allowed to serve a second term if he is “convicted of a crime” in the hush money case; just 37% think he should be allowed to serve as president if found guilty. At the same time, a full 54% of voters now believe Trump has “committed a serious crime” during his life, up 7 points since the start of April. It remains to be seen how the hush money trial — and any additional indictments — affect such perceptions.

For now, most Republican voters (52%) still think Trump “has the best chance of winning the 2024 general election,” versus 34% for DeSantis. But just two weeks ago, those numbers were 55% and 29%, respectively. The Florida governor has yet to launch his widely expected candidacy; reports suggest he will announce later this spring. To secure the nomination, DeSantis needs to convince GOP primary voters that he has a better shot against Biden than Trump — with as much help from the courts as he can get.