By Catherine Yang
Four criminal indictments and a viral mugshot later, former president and current GOP frontrunner for the seat in 2024 Donald Trump has only risen in the polls, garnering support as more Americans come to view the prosecutions as partisan and political.
A Wall Street Journal poll conducted Aug. 24 to Aug. 30 and published Sept. 2 found that 59 percent of GOP primary voters say he is their top choice.
“The new survey finds that what was once a two-man race for the nomination has collapsed into a lopsided contest,” with President Trump widely taking the lead, the publication found.
WSJ had run a similar poll in April, and found that President Trump has almost doubled his lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis since then, rising 11 points and bringing the difference between the two to 46 points.
“At 13% support, DeSantis is barely ahead of the rest of the field, none of whom has broken out of single-digit support,” WSJ wrote.
The Florida governor’s approval dropped the most, going from 35 percent to 13 percent of likely primary voters declaring him their first choice between the April and recent poll.
Support for all other candidates had also taken a dip, with likely voters switching their top pick to President Trump. Entrepreneur and political outsider Vivek Ramaswamy saw 16 percent of the vote in April, and now has only 5 percent. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s numbers dropped from 12 to 8 percent. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) saw his support drop from 7 to 2 percent, and former Vice President Mike Pence from 4 to 2 percent, while the others saw no change at 1 to 3 percent. A smaller group of voters were undecided this time, from 12 to 4 percent in the most recent poll.
WSJ also asked voters about the multiple indictments against President Trump, and found that most Republican voters viewed it in his favor: 78 percent said the president’s actions after 2020 were “legitimate efforts to ensure an accurate vote,” while 16 percent said the attempt to block Congress was illegal. Also, 16 percent said they were less likely to vote for President Trump because of the indictments, while 48 percent said they were more likely to vote for him because of the indictments.
When polling President Trump against President Joe Biden, the WSJ poll found them evenly tied, with 8 percent undecided. When third-party candidates were added to the hypothetical race, 40 percent chose President Trump and 39 percent chose President Biden.
Candidates’ reactions to the indictments have also shifted their support rankings, WSJ found.
Mr. Pence’s remarks and stance on the 2020 elections have separated him from Republican voters who support President Trump. In the WSJ poll in April, 54 percent of respondents viewed him favorably, whereas now 63 percent have an unfavorable view of him. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had the highest unfavorable opinion share, more than 70 percent.
A Morning Consult poll published Aug. 29 showed similar voter sentiment.
Republican primary voters found President Trump even more electable after the mugshot event, and his skipping the first primary debate, according to the poll.
A majority, 62 percent, of the Republican primary voters surveyed said President Trump had the best chance of beating President Biden in the 2024 race, up almost 10 points from when the consulting firm ran a similar survey just a week before.
Meanwhile, support for Mr. DeSantis also dropped, with just 13 percent of voters saying he is most electable, matching a low from when Morning Consult began polling in April. Mr. Ramaswamy, who had been climbing in the polls as of late, also saw a dip, from 10 to 6 percent, after the viral mugshot, as more voters turned to President Trump.
Previous indictments likewise increased President Trump’s numbers in the polls and fundraising, with supporters explaining that they saw the candidate’s actions as a stand for justice.
Newt Gingrich recently explained on Fox News that President Trump was more than a candidate, but the “leader of a movement,” symbolizing a stand against an “establishment that is totally corrupt, destroying anything that gets in its way.
“Here are my choices; I’m going to side with a totally corrupt administration, or I’m going to side with a guy who has the guts to stand there and take the beating and keep coming,” he said. “I mean, you know, Trump could easily have retired, and if he’d retired, none of these charges would ever have occurred. And instead, he said, you know, the country’s worth going through this. And I think that’s given him support in places that normally wouldn’t have supported him.”
Ahead of his surrender in Fulton County, Georgia, where he was charged with racketeering over contesting the state’s 2020 election results, President Trump had written on social media that he would “proudly be arrested” for fighting for election integrity.
President Trump had made it known days before that he would be surrendering at the local jail on Aug. 24, and a hashtag for his mugshot had been trending on X, formerly known as Twitter, all day. It was released about an hour after his booking, where President Trump made his first X post since he was de-platformed in January 2021, posting the photo with the message “ELECTION INTERFERENCE. NEVER SURRENDER!”
He included a link to his campaign page, which later reported raising more than $7 million the weekend following the booking.
“What has taken place here is a travesty of justice. We did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong,” President Trump told reporters on the tarmac on his way out of Atlanta, adding that he’s “never had such support.”
That same night, he was scheduled to give an interview on Newsmax, where he described the “terrible experience” he had of being booked.
“I went through an experience that I never thought I’d have to go through, but then I’ve gone through the same experience three other times. In my whole life, I didn’t know anything about indictments. And now I’ve been indicted, like, four times,” he told Newsmax.
Separately, he told Fox News the process was “not a comfortable feeling—especially when you’ve done nothing wrong.”
He said the jail staff had behaved “very nicely,” but the event symbolized a “very sad day for our country.”
“This is a weaponized Justice Department,” he said.