Trump’s Conviction: A Game-Changer or Temporary Setback for the 2024 Election?

Featured & Cover Trump's Conviction A Game Changer or Temporary Setback for the 2024 Election

Scandals have surrounded former President Donald Trump since his initial presidential campaign in 2016. However, following his conviction in his New York hush-money case, he is now officially labeled as a convicted felon, adding a new dimension to his controversial legacy. This development begs the question: could this conviction significantly alter the trajectory of the 2024 election?

Initial indicators suggest that Trump’s conviction could indeed erode his support base. A poll conducted by CNN/SSRS in April revealed that while 76 percent of Trump supporters vowed unwavering allegiance, 24 percent admitted they might reconsider their support if he were convicted. Similarly, a May survey by Emerson College found that 25 percent of voters claimed a guilty verdict in New York would diminish their likelihood of voting for Trump.

Some pollsters adopted a two-pronged approach, asking respondents their voting preferences both with and without considering Trump’s conviction. On average, Trump’s standing shifted from a 1 percentage point lead to a 6-point deficit when the conviction was factored in.

However, Democrats should temper their enthusiasm, considering the nuances within these statistics. The wording of the CNN/SSRS poll, for instance, reveals that while 24 percent of Trump supporters might reconsider their vote, this doesn’t necessarily translate to definitive abandonment. Many may simply experience a crisis of confidence without outright switching allegiance to President Joe Biden.

A poll by ABC News/Ipsos echoed this sentiment. While 16 percent of respondents claimed they would reconsider their support for Trump following a conviction, only 4 percent stated they would completely withdraw it. Moreover, caution is warranted in interpreting polls like Emerson’s, which gauge whether events influence voting behavior. Often, respondents use such questions as proxies for their approval or disapproval rather than literal indicators of future action.

Interestingly, a significant portion of those claiming a conviction would sway their vote towards Biden had already expressed support for him in previous questions. Conversely, only a small fraction of Trump supporters indicated that a guilty verdict would deter them from voting for him, suggesting a lesser impact on his actual support than initially presumed.

Additional polls reinforce the notion that Trump’s conviction may not trigger mass defections to Biden. Instead, the majority of lost support for Trump translates into undecided or hypothetical “someone else” categories. While Trump’s support decreases by an average of 6 points post-conviction, Biden only gains 1 point, with 5 points going to undecided or alternative options.

This dynamic suggests that while some Trump supporters may hesitate to endorse him following the conviction, they are unlikely to pivot towards Biden. Consequently, the dip in Trump’s support may be transient. Past behavior serves as a predictor, indicating that many defectors could eventually realign with Trump, especially given the substantial time remaining until Election Day. Trump’s ability to craft a narrative that assuages concerns about supporting a convicted felon could further facilitate this return to the fold.

The parallels with past events, such as the fallout from the “Access Hollywood” tape during the 2016 campaign, underscore the potential for Trump’s support to rebound swiftly. Despite initial discomfort among Republicans, Trump’s popularity recovered within weeks of the tape’s release.

Nevertheless, even if most defectors ultimately return to Trump’s camp, the conviction’s impact on the race should not be dismissed entirely. Biden’s marginal 1-point gain could prove decisive in a closely contested election, though it’s crucial not to exaggerate the conviction’s influence. Ultimately, if the outcome of the hush-money trial shapes the presidential race, it will likely be within the margins of a closely contested contest.

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