Dem 51
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GOP 49
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The Pundits Are Getting the Trial All Wrong

As Donald Trump's first criminal trial is getting started, pollsters and pundits are revving up. The former are already providing some data and the latter are already misinterpreting it. For example, Irena Li at ABC News wrote: "About half of Americans think he's guilty. That likely won't matter in November." There are plenty more like this.

First of all, the actual trial hasn't even started yet. Who knows what kind of evidence will be introduced and how compelling the witnesses will be. At the very least, people's memories about the events that led to Trump's indictment will be refreshed. It is very hard to predict how people will react once they realize the actual charges don't relate to what Trump did with Stormy Daniels, but to his falsifying his business records, for which there is incontrovertible evidence.

A number of pundits cited a Quinnipiac University poll that showed that only 29% of the voters would be less likely to vote for Trump if he is a convicted felon. But none of those are dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporters, who will stick with their man through thick and thin. We don't know how many of those 29% are people who voted for Trump but are not fanatical supporters. We do know that in 2020, Georgia was decided by 0.23%, Arizona was decided by 0.30%, Wisconsin was decided by 0.63%. Pennsylvania was decided by 1.33%, North Carolina was decided by 1.34%, Nevada was decided by 2.39%, and Michigan was decided by 2.76%. After looking at those numbers, 29% is an awfully big number. In fact, even one-tenth of that—2.9%—is a seriously large number.

In other words, it isn't necessary for 30%, or 20%, or even 10% of the people who voted for Trump to give up on him for the trial to do real damage. About half a dozen states were won by under 3%. Even a shift as small as that could have a huge effect.

Other polls have other numbers about whether people would vote for a convicted felon. A YouGov poll shows that 57% of Americans feel that falsifying business records to conceal a payment to a porn star is serious. A Morning Consult poll shows that 53% of respondents will not vote for Trump if he is a convicted felon. We suggest taking all these numbers with one or more barrels of salt. It's all hypothetical now. If Trump is actually convicted, then people will start thinking about this seriously and the polls may mean more.

What effect will the trial have on the "double haters" and people who don't normally pay much attention to politics? If anything gets their attention it could be this trial—at least assuming they consume some media other than Fox.

And the polls certainly don't take into account what could happen if Trump—against the advice of his (quite competent) attorneys—decides to testify and is torn apart on the witness stand. In short, pundits gotta pundit, but you don't have to take them at all seriously until the trial is actually over and we see what comes out during it. You may feel free to continue taking us seriously, however. (V)

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