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Most Americans call Trump investigations 'fair,' according to poll

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

At a weekend rally in Waco, Texas, former President Trump blasted the multiple criminal investigations into his conduct as biased conspiracies.

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DONALD TRUMP: But this is really prosecutorial misconduct. That's what it's called. The innocence of people makes no difference whatsoever to these radical left maniacs.

SUMMERS: But a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds most Americans disagree with that. And they say investigations are fair. To break down the numbers, let's bring in NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. And, Domenico, how did the questions about these Trump investigations all break down?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Well, 56% said that the investigations are fair. We saw some pretty familiar splits by party, place and education. Nine in 10 Democrats say they're fair. Eight in 10 Republicans call them a witch hunt. Independents are split but lean toward calling them fair.

SUMMERS: OK. And what does that tell us about how people view the former president's conduct?

MONTANARO: Well, most people - three-quarters actually - think Trump did at least something wrong. Forty-six percent say he did something illegal. Twenty-nine percent say he did something unethical but not illegal. A quarter say he did nothing wrong at all. But the most eye-opening split here was with Republicans. Forty-five percent say he did nothing wrong. Forty-three percent, meanwhile, think that he did something unethical. And that's pretty close to the divide in the GOP primary that we've been seeing, where about half the party is open to someone other than Trump, but half appear pretty locked in for him.

SUMMERS: All right. And because you mentioned the primary, I do have to ask you, does this poll give us any other clues on Trump's standing with rank-and-file Republican voters as compared to, say, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who I should note is not yet officially a candidate for president, though most people do expect that he's going to run?

MONTANARO: Yeah, that's right. You know, the survey really found that Trump remains very popular with Republican voters. Eight in 10 have a favorable opinion of him. Three-quarters of Republicans actually want him to be president again, even though 61% of people overall don't want that to happen. That includes two-thirds of independents who say, no. And it's tough to win a general election with those kinds of numbers. But it's also hard to see how he loses a primary with the depth of support that he has among Republicans. You know, that's going to make it tough for someone like DeSantis to distinguish himself. And we haven't seen DeSantis be able to take Trump down a few pegs, something he's going to have to do if he ultimately runs and wants to win the nomination. But we've seen him struggle recently.

SUMMERS: Yeah, let's talk more about that. DeSantis now seems to be a little defensive about his stance on Russia and Ukraine.

MONTANARO: Right. Yeah. He's really shifted on this. Earlier this month, he dismissed the war in Ukraine as a, quote, "territorial dispute." But in an interview with Piers Morgan, he called Russia's Vladimir Putin a, quote, "war criminal" and he addressed his territorial dispute comments this way.

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RON DESANTIS: The thing with territory is just that's where the fighting was. You know, there's not fighting on the western side. And you have situations where there's ethnic Russians there. And it's just - it's a messy situation. But Russia did not have a right to go in to Crimea or to go in in February of 2022. And that should be clear.

MONTANARO: Clearly, he wanted to make that clear. And that's DeSantis there trying hard to get back on the right side of many of his donors and allies, who've been concerned about his falling poll numbers of late. You know, these are more traditional Wall Street Journal GOP types who don't agree with Trump's more populist America First policy agenda. And as governor of Florida, this really hasn't been a thing that we've had to see DeSantis talk about or make his mark on. But as president, he'd have to. And what his world view is, is still to be determined.

SUMMERS: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.