The View from Trump Country will be ongoing analysis offered at PoliticusUSA, which has a unique ability to properly assess Trump supporters based on information obtained on the ground.
PoliticusUSA is headquartered in the heart of “Trump country” Pennsylvania, so we have an inside look at what’s going on with Trump supporters. For example, during the 2020 election, I reported that while Trump still had a lot of support here, visible signs of it had dropped off from previous support.
And that is still true, but there has been an even bigger drop off of visible support. What the poll shows is not new support for Trump because he was indicted, but rather a reanimation of previous Trump support due most likely to his campaigning for president while decrying the two felony indictments against himself.
The slight bump in support for Trump is more a reflection of the Kool-Aid being re-injected into the national discussion than it is new support or even Trump supporters coming back.
Let’s unpack the noise right now about how the second felony indictment of former president Donald J Trump has caused his support to go up.
A CBS News poll of Republicans taken after the indictment shows that 68% say the indictment doesn’t change their view of Trump. “Republicans, by a margin of 80-20, overwhelmingly feel he should still be able to serve as president again. A majority of Americans – 57% – disagree,” CBS reported. They don’t even see the accusation that Trump kept national defense documents that are harmful to our national security (and have most likely put military and other assets at risk) as a problem.
The only reason for this is Republicans are being fed a steady diet of obfuscation, deflection, and outright lies by the media they consume and on social media, the largest platforms of which are run by billionaires with a history of interest in enabling a return to power of a tax-cutting for rich people Republican.
While the indictments haven’t hurt Trump in the Republican primary, most Americans see a security risk in Trump due to this indictment, according to this same poll. And that’s where the money is.
Trump will need some (real, not the Republicans identifying as Independents) Independents to cross over to vote for a man who likely put the military at risk and allegedly carelessly hoarded defense documents and left them in a ballroom, a bathroom, and more at his club, where tens of thousands had potential access. Not to mention the two times he is accused of sharing very sensitive information about our defense strategy and more with people who did not have any clearance.
Trump leads DeSantis after the indictment 61%-23%, with no one else above 4%.
The fact is that many of Trump’s supporters never left him, which is why he is leading in the Republican primary. But some of them have had “Trump fatigue,” telling us they are “tired of the drama.”
The poll corroborates what we hear on the ground, giving a hint of how they are tired of Trump’s whining, “Most GOP primary voters do not want to hear Trump himself talk about the legal cases and investigations against him, nor about what happened in the 2020 election, though those topics have been a key part of his rallies, including in the wake of the indictment.”
But Trump’s hardcore supporters still supported him in 2020 and still support him now, so that support is more likely coming to the surface again after several years of waning interest due to Trump not being in the news and his Kool-Aid not being blasted from TVs around the country.
If you think of Trump’s voice and message like the Kool-Aid a cult digests, it makes more sense. It doesn’t matter that they are tired of the message he’s sending, his voice being amplified is a powerful conduit to their emotions. There is evidence of what we document on the ground here in the poll, as Trump leads “also among those who say it’s important for a president to tell Americans the truth, have character, and even be a role model for children.”
These folks are not getting accurate information.
The narrative that Trump is going to “gain” support if he is indicted is intended to warn prosecutors against indicting him and is also a bit of catnip for the media who make a lot of money when Trump is president. But Trump is not “gaining” the support of non-Trump supporters. He has actually lost some support, not due to the indictments, and he is not gaining previously Independent voters by any count that would be significant.
Trump already lost a national election in 2020 due to shaving of support, and that has continued.
Trump’s strong supporters are with him 100% and nothing will sway them. Some of them might even become dangerous if he is allowed to continue denigrating the DOJ and polluting the jury pool in Southern Florida. Hearing Trump’s voice is like the sirens in The Odyssey, whose song lured the sailors to their deaths.
Trump supporters are best understood as being a sort of cult, protected from real information due to the asymmetric polarization of right-wing media and the outright lies “conservative” media is willing to peddle for Trump. Right-wing epistemic closure has been increasing due to attacks on mainstream media as being “liberally biased” and run by “elites” (this accusation is made by elites, so while it’s true, it’s being used disingenuously) since Nixon. This is how they win elections when they offer little substance for the people voting for them.
The indictments are not a superpower that is going to return Trump to the White House. That is not to say he can’t win the 2024 election. Given what we know about his willingness to work with hostile foreign powers to obtain power, it’s impossible to use the usual metrics when considering his potential to win.
But he has not gained new supporters so far, and his supporters here in Trump country have largely been quiet about the latest indictment. They just don’t seem to care enough to protest, which might be why the Republican Party is busing in people to the courthouse on Tuesday for Trump’s arraignment.
This poll says more about the current state of the Republican Party than it does about support for Donald Trump increasing in a way that is relevant to a match-up against President Biden in the 2024 election.
Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here.
Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.