Americans are split over whether Trump should face prison in the hush money case, AP-NORC poll finds

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are about evenly split on whether former President Donald Trump should face prison time for his recent felony conviction on hush money charges, according to a new poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Among U.S. adults, 48% say the former president and presumptive Republican nominee should serve time behind bars, and 50% say he should not. About 8 in 10 Democrats think Trump should face prison time, while independents are divided. About half, 49%, of independents say he should, and 46% say he should not.

Most Republicans believe that Trump was mistreated by the legal system and say he should not face jail time. Democrats, conversely, are generally confident that the prosecutors, the judge and members of the jury treated Trump fairly as a defendant.

The results underscore the partisan divide in opinions about the case, which was the first brought against a current or former U.S. president. Both Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden have made the trial central to how they campaign to their respective bases: Biden frequently pointing out that Trump became the first former president to be convicted of a felony; Trump arguing that Democrats orchestrated the case against him for political purposes.

Trump's sentencing was delayed from Thursday, three days before the Republican National Convention opens, to September at the earliest — when early voting in multiple states will already be underway.

“I thought it was all a sham to begin with,” said Dolores Mejia, a 74-year-old Republican in Peoria, Arizona, who has been closely following the trial. “I wasn’t surprised he got convicted because the court was in New York, a very blue state. ... It seemed like it was thoroughly stacked against him.”

A small but notable slice of Republicans have a different view from the rest of their party. The poll found that 14% of Republicans approve of Trump’s conviction, while 12% believe he should spend time behind bars.

“I knew he had a big ego and questionable values when I voted for him the first time in 2016, but I thought the mantle of the presidency would be a humbling experience for him, and I was wrong,” said Leigh Gerstenberger, a Pennsylvania Republican who said he agreed with jurors’ finding in the New York case and believes Trump should spend at least some time behind bars.

“I could not be more disappointed in his conduct both in office and out of office,” the 71-year-old retiree said. “There are plenty of Americans who have spent time behind bars for lesser offenses. President Trump should not be treated any differently.”

About 4 in 10 U.S. adults are extremely or very confident that Trump has been treated fairly by either the jurors, the judge or the prosecutors. Slightly less than half, 46%, approve of the conviction in the case, in line with an AP-NORC poll conducted in June, while about 3 in 10 disapprove, and one-quarter are neutral.

Some Americans do not believe Trump should be imprisoned but reject his arguments that he’s been treated unfairly by the justice system.

“I don’t think the particular crime deserves time,” said Christopher Smith, a 43-year-old independent in Tennessee. “I see what he did, lying on business records because of an affair, as more of a moral crime,” Smith said, explaining that he believes prison should be a punishment for crimes that involve a convicted person actively harming another person.

The poll found that Americans are less divided about another recent high-profile case. Last month, Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was convicted of three felonies in federal court for lying about drug use when purchasing a gun. Six in 10 U.S. adults approve of Hunter Biden's conviction, with much smaller political differences: About 6 in 10 Democrats approve, as do around 7 in 10 Republicans.

About 6 in 10 U.S. adults believe Hunter Biden should be sentenced to serve time in prison because of his conviction in this case, with Republicans slightly more likely than Democrats to agree that prison time is warranted.


The poll of 1,088 adults was conducted June 20-24, 2024, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

Barrow reported from Atlanta.