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Small Shift Toward Biden After Trump Verdict

Small Shift Toward Biden After Trump Verdict

It’s one of the biggest questions in the wake of Donald J. Trump’s conviction: Did the verdict change anyone’s mind?

Early on, the answer appears to be an equivocal “yes.”

In interviews with nearly 2,000 voters who previously took New York Times/Siena College surveys, President Biden appeared to gain slightly in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s conviction last week for falsifying business records.

The group favored Mr. Trump by three points when originally interviewed in April and May, but this week they backed him by only one point.

While there’s no way to be sure whether their views reflect the broader electorate, the findings offer unusually clear evidence that the verdict has led some voters to reconsider their support for Mr. Trump.

Overall, Mr. Trump retains 93 percent of voters who told us they backed him in a previous survey — a tally that’s yet another striking show of political resilience from a candidate who is facing three more sets of criminal indictments.

But in a close election, losing 7 percent of your supporters can be decisive. In recent polls, Mr. Biden either leads or is within two points of Mr. Trump in states and districts worth the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. A potentially crucial sliver of Mr. Trump’s former supporters — 3 percent — now told us they’ll back Mr. Biden, while another 4 percent say they’re now undecided. (The overall shift is closer to two percentage points because it also accounts for the smaller slice of voters who moved away from Mr. Biden when contacted again.)

The shift was especially pronounced among the young, nonwhite and disengaged Democratic-leaning voters who have propelled Mr. Trump to a lead in the early polls. Of the people who previously told us they had voted for Mr. Biden in 2020 but would vote for Mr. Trump in 2024, around one-quarter now said they would instead stick with Mr. Biden.

Voters who dislike both candidates — who have been dubbed double haters — were especially likely to defect from Mr. Trump. Overall, Mr. Trump lost more than one-fifth of the double haters who once backed him. That group of defectors was about evenly split between moving to Mr. Biden and saying they were now undecided.

Politically disengaged voters, an area of growth for Mr. Trump in recent polls, are especially likely to shift from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden.

With five months to go until the election, there’s still plenty of time for Mr. Trump to regain his standing. The verdict is still fresh in the minds of voters, and shifts in public opinion in the wake of a major news event can prove fleeting. The study offers no reason to assume that Mr. Trump has lost these voters for good, and many still haven’t made up their minds about the verdict.

A plurality of those we called back for the study approved of the verdict, but a sizable share said they had not heard enough to say whether they approved or disapproved of the outcome. More than a quarter said they’d paid little or no attention to Mr. Trump’s legal battle.

The findings depict an unsettled electorate, one with many disengaged voters who might swing over the months ahead. Overall, 8 percent of respondents offered a different response in the presidential race than they had when they were first interviewed no more than eight weeks ago — a tally far higher than many might imagine in today’s polarized country. Even Mr. Biden retained only 96 percent of his former supporters, with 1.5 percent of those former supporters saying they would now back Mr. Trump, despite the news of his conviction, and the rest moving to undecided.

Contacting previous respondents may be an excellent way to track how people’s views change over time, but it’s not necessarily the best way to represent the whole electorate. On the one hand, Mr. Biden’s supporters were slightly likelier to retake the survey than those who backed Mr. Trump, 37 percent to 35 percent. The voters we reached again were generally older, more educated, more highly engaged and more likely to be white than those who did not respond.

On the other hand, these demographic groups were also more likely to stick by Mr. Trump than the younger, less educated, less engaged and nonwhite voters who were less likely to retake the survey.

In fact, the voters we spoke to who continue to support Mr. Trump appear to be more enthusiastic than ever. Many of his previously disengaged supporters seemed newly energized by the verdict, with 18 percent of his supporters who previously said they were unlikely to vote now “almost certain” to do so, compared with just 3 percent of Mr. Biden’s supporters who moved into that category.

But the slight movement overall toward Mr. Biden is broadly in line with other recent surveys. In a Reuters/Ipsos survey taken immediately after the verdict, 10 percent of Republicans said Mr. Trump’s conviction made them less likely to support him in the fall.

Another recontacting study by Echelon Insights, a Republican firm, found Mr. Biden gaining two points compared with its previous survey.

In a Times/Siena poll of six battleground states conducted in November, about 7 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters said they would switch their support to Mr. Biden if Mr. Trump were to be convicted and sentenced to jail in an unspecified criminal trial. Other pre-verdict polls asking specifically about the Manhattan hush money trial found a similar share of Mr. Trump’s supporters nationally who said they intended to switch their support if there were a guilty verdict.

  • On June 3-4, we reached 1,897 registered voters who had taken a Times/Siena poll in the previous two months.

  • While recontacting studies can help answer important questions of whether individuals are changing their minds, this study is not necessarily representative of the entire electorate. It is not possible to calculate a conventional margin of sampling error. And while all surveys have sources of error beyond sampling, such as nonresponse bias, this study in particular may be more likely than the typical Times/Siena poll to overrepresent the most politically engaged voters.

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