We’re used to seeing various assessments of Donald Trump’s performance as president, and certain personal characteristics, like his unprecedented mendacity. But as the Mueller report looms, and House Democrats begin wide-ranging investigations, there’s a new question that’s occurring to pollsters: Is the president a criminal?
A new national survey from Quinnipiac gets into those troubled waters, and produces some rather shocking results.
Asked if they think Trump “committed any crimes before he was president,” registered voters said “yes” by a 64 to 24 margin. I don’t know which internal finding should be deemed more important: that 33 percent of Republicans (who in the same poll approve of the job he is doing by an 81 to 12 margin) believe he did some crimes before taking the oath of office, or that nearly two-thirds of independents agree. I guess given Trump’s long career in the public eye, the nature of his real estate and entertainment businesses, and his obvious need for a lot of lawyers, combine to convince a lot of people that this law-and-order president might have earned a few criminal indictments and convictions along the way.
Republicans are much warier of the proposition that Trump may have committed crimes since becoming president, since that could raise the possibility that some of them might merit impeachment. So only 12 percent of his partisans say they think he’s committed crimes while serving as president. But by a 46 to 38 margin, independents think he has committed crimes while in office, and overall, a plurality of voters — 45 to 43 percent — agree.
It’s one thing to think a president is doing a bad job or even that he’s lying to Americans now and then. Thinking he’s a criminal is a pretty serious charge that should supply a reasonably strong incentive to voting against him in 2020. And perhaps just as importantly, it indicates a predisposition to believe evidence of other crimes — before or after he took office — that might be contained in the Mueller report or revealed in congressional testimony.
It’s like Americans — including a sizable number of Republicans — know about this man’s deeply flawed character, and wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s done some pretty bad things. They may have lots of specifics to chew over in the months just ahead.