Trump holds commanding lead over GOP rivals despite legal woes: Poll

Former US president has 54 percent support among likely Republican primary voters, New York Times/Siena poll finds.

Former US President Donald Trump
Former US President Donald Trump is the clear frontrunner in the Republican Party's presidential nomination race [File: Matt Rourke/AP Photo]

Despite facing a string of legal woes and investigations, former US President Donald Trump holds a sizeable lead in his campaign for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination, a new poll has found.

The New York Times/Siena College poll released on Monday showed Trump with 54 percent support among likely GOP primary voters, compared with 17 percent for his closest challenger, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

No other candidate in the crowded Republican field had more than 3 percent support, according to the poll, which surveyed more than 1,300 voters across the United States last week, including 818 registered Republican voters.

“More than three-quarters of Republican voters view Trump favorably and two-thirds view DeSantis favorably,” Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, said in a statement released with the poll results.

“However, GOP voters overwhelmingly see Trump rather than DeSantis as a strong leader, able to get things done and as best able to beat President Joe Biden.”

The poll was released just days after US prosecutors filed additional charges against Trump in a criminal case in which he is accused of mishandling secret government documents upon leaving the White House in early 2021.

The former Republican president also faces criminal charges in New York after prosecutors accused him of falsifying business records in relation to a hush-money payment made to a porn star before the 2016 presidential election, which he won.

He faces potential charges linked to the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol, and The Associated Press reported that a prosecutor in the US state of Georgia is expected to seek an indictment against Trump for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election he lost.

But Trump – who has denied wrongdoing in all the cases and said he is the victim of a politically motivated “witch-hunt” – has not seen his popularity wane among Republican voters despite his many legal troubles.

“The bottom line is, politically it’s a benefit to [former] President Trump,” Adolfo Franco, a lawyer and Republican strategist, told Al Jazeera last week.

Franco said there is a perception in the US that there are separate standards for Democrats and Republicans. “And that’s why his support continues to grow,” he said.

According to the Times/Siena poll, 71 percent of potential Republican primary voters said the GOP needs “to stand behind” Trump amid the investigations and indictments.

Still, another poll released in late July on the eve of the new charges being filed against Trump in the secret documents case found that fewer Republicans believed Trump did nothing wrong.

The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found 41 percent of Republicans held that belief in late July, compared with 50 percent a month earlier.

“Donald Trump has proven repeatedly over the past seven years that he can hold his Republican support in the face of numerous troubles,” Lee M Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said on Friday.

“With these additional charges, Trump’s troubles may be catching up with him, though history does suggest otherwise.”

The other Republican presidential contenders – including Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence and ex-US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley – have struggled to mount a real challenge to Trump, however.

DeSantis, who launched his presidential campaign in May, also has been unable to make major advances despite leaning into some popular, right-wing talking points on immigration and other issues.

Even in his home state of Florida, the governor trailed Trump by 20 percentage points among registered Republican voters, according to a Mainstreet Research Survey (PDF) from late June and early July.

DeSantis “performed his weakest among some of the Republican Party’s biggest and most influential constituencies”, The New York Times reported on Monday, citing its survey’s findings.

That includes GOP voters who are over age 65, do not have a college degree and describe themselves as “very conservative”.

Source: Al Jazeera