A whopping two-thirds of Republican primary voters say they stand behind former President Donald Trump and dismiss concerns about his electability, despite his recent criminal arrest and other legal investigations into his past conduct, a new national NBC News poll finds.
That — along with his double-digit lead over his nearest potential GOP rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — makes Trump the clear front-runner in the early race for the Republican presidential nomination.
The Republican Party’s continued enthusiasm for Trump stands in contrast to an anxious nation’s displeasure with how the 2024 race is shaping up. Substantial majorities of Americans don’t want Trump or President Joe Biden to run for president in 2024, setting up a potentially divisive and uninspiring general-election rematch between the two men, with Biden expected to launch his re-election bid in the coming days.
And half of those who don’t want Biden, 80, to run say the president’s age is a “major” reason why.
Trump is 76 years old.
“At this stage, 2024 is shaping up to be a sequel of the 2020 election,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research, which conducted this poll with Republican pollster Bill McInturff and his team at Public Opinion Strategies. “Sequels are frequently hits at the box office, but apparently not at the ballot box.”
McInturff, the GOP pollster, said: “It’s clear that people do not want a Biden-Trump rematch.”
The NBC News poll — conducted April 14-18 — comes after Trump’s arrest and arraignment in New York City over charges that he falsified business records to conceal damaging information in a hush-money case.
It also comes as prosecutors and grand juries in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., examine the former president’s alleged interference in Georgia’s 2020 election results, his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and his handling of classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home.
Despite the indictment against him and the other investigations into his conduct, Trump leads the NBC News poll’s first national trial heat of the Republican presidential race.
Forty-six percent of Republican primary voters pick Trump as their first choice, while 31% select DeSantis as the 2024 candidate they favor.
They’re followed by former Vice President Mike Pence at 6%, and by former South Carolina Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. (who’s exploring a 2024 bid), and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who are all tied at 3%. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy has 2%.
Meanwhile, DeSantis is the second choice of 33% of GOP primary voters, Trump is the second pick of 20%, and Haley is the second choice of 14%.
Yet what also stands out in the poll are the nearly 70% of Republican primary voters who say they stand behind Trump despite the various investigations he’s facing.
Sixty-eight percent of GOP primary voters agree with the statement that the investigations into Trump are politically motivated and are designed to stop him from being president again, and that they must support him now to stop his opponents from winning.
That’s compared with 26% who agree with the opposite statement — that it’s important to nominate a different candidate who won’t be distracted and who can focus only on beating Biden in the general election.
Yet among all voters — not just Republicans — 52% believe that Trump is being held to the same standard as anyone else accused of doing what he did as he faces charges in New York. Another 43% disagree and say he’s being unfairly targeted.
Majorities don’t want Biden, Trump to run for president in 2024
The NBC News poll also comes just days before Biden’s expected announcement for re-election.
According to the survey, 70% of all Americans — including 51% of Democrats — believe he should not run for a second term.
Half of those who say Biden shouldn’t run cite his age as a “major” reason why.
“The president needs to reflect the age group in the country. They should both retire,” said one Democratic poll respondent from Washington state, also referring to Trump. “It is someone else’s turn.”
As for Trump, 60% of Americans — including a third of Republicans — think the former president shouldn’t run in 2024.
41% say they’d vote for Biden in general election
The NBC News survey finds a combined 41% of registered voters saying they’d definitely or probably vote for Biden in the general election, versus 47% who say they’d vote for the eventual Republican nominee.
By party, 88% of Democratic voters say they’d definitely or probably vote for Biden, compared with 22% of independents and only 3% of Republicans.
In addition, 41% of all adults in the poll approve of Biden’s job performance, while 54% disapprove — down from Biden’s rating of 45% approve, 50% disapprove in January.
By party, 83% of Democrats approve of how Biden has done his job, versus 30% of independents and 6% of Republicans.
“President Biden’s numbers are not where they need to be at this stage,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster, noting the president’s struggles with independents.
Still, Biden remains more popular than Trump: 38% of adults have a positive view of the current president, versus 48% with a negative view (-10).
That’s compared with Trump’s 34% positive, 53% negative rating (-19).
“Yes, Joe Biden has work to do, but he still is viewed less negatively than Donald Trump,” Horwitt added.
58% say abortion should be legal
Finally, the national NBC News poll shows nearly 6 in 10 adults — 58% — saying abortion should be legal, either always (38%) or most of the time (20%).
By contrast, a combined 38% believe abortion should be illegal, either with exceptions (32%) or without exceptions (6%).
These results are essentially unchanged from an NBC News poll released a year ago, in May 2022, when 60% said abortion should be always or mostly legal, versus 37% who said it should be illegal with or without exceptions.
The NBC News poll was conducted April 14-18 of 1,000 adults — including 861 reached by cell phone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.
The margin of error for the poll’s 800 registered voters is plus-minus 3.46 percentage points, and the margin of error among the 292 Republican primary voters is plus-minus 5.99 percentage points.