Trump fatigue kicks in early: Polling shows growing GOP "exhaustion" ahead of 2024

Republican voters are finally growing weary of their dear leader

By Heather Digby Parton


Published May 3, 2023 9:00AM (EDT)

Make America Great Again Hats on Ground (Getty/David McNew)
Make America Great Again Hats on Ground (Getty/David McNew)

The front runner for the 2024 Republican nomination for president, former president Donald J. Trump, is currently on trial in civil court in New York for rape (rape!) and it seems that none of his potential voters care that he is jetting off to a new golf course in Scotland instead of appearing in court to defend himself. Neither do they care that he's also been indicted on felony charges in New York City for illegally paying hush money to an adult film actress or that he and his offspring are the subject of a massive civil fraud case filed by the state Attorney General last September.

And that's just New York.

Trump's also got investigations pending in Georgia over election fraud and two major federal probes being handled by Special Counsel Jack Smith regarding the stealing of classified documents and criminal liability for the insurrection on January 6.

But according to a new CBS/YouGov poll, the majority of Republican voters could not care less about any of that. This new survey shows Trump is the undisputed leader of the pack, besting his closest rival Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by 36 points and it delves into why GOP primary voters feel the way they do. 94% of those declared for Trump are voting for him because of his performance as president. (Apparently, they love chaos and incompetence.) 94% believe he "fights" for people like them and 82% love the way he deals with his political opponents. 65% believe that a good reason to vote for him is as a way to show support for his legal troubles which explains why they could not care less that he's credibly accused of numerous crimes. It's clear at this point that Trump's trope that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any votes is literally true.

Meanwhile, 84% believe he can beat Biden and this is because nearly 70% believe that Biden is illegitimate and 75% see Trump's "victory" in 2020 as a reason to vote for him again. Even worse, 61% believe that all candidates must say that Trump won. In other words, the Big Lie is a litmus test even after the 2022 election in which GOP candidates who ran on that were slaughtered at the polls.

They are feeling the exhaustion of having to keep up a false front.

If anyone thought that Trump's celebration of the January 6 criminals might turn off GOP voters, they need to think again. Only 15% prefer a candidate who is a critic of the events that day while 24% want one who supports what they did. Most Republicans just want to sweep it under the rug and not talk about it at all and they certainly don't seem to be holding it against Trump.

What about "the issues?" Well, here's what GOP voters care about:

As you can see we are dealing with very serious people. Only 51% are in favor of a national abortion ban and a mere 44% believe that the government should rip up the Constitution and favor Christianity over all other religions. I guess that's good?

CBS pointed out one interesting little finding that I suspect may have more of an effect in the general election should Trump win the nomination: Of the voters who say they aren't going to vote for Trump, half of them name "exhaustion" as the reason why. 54% explain that he's "too controversial" and 41% of those who won't vote for him say it's because of his legal woes. This doesn't add up to a large number in the full primary pool, but it's enough that he's going to have to find a way to appeal to them if he hopes to beat Joe Biden. These are people who could just decide to stay home rather than vote for him again.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Perhaps that's why he's decided to do mainstream media outreach and has agreed to appear on CNN for the first time since 2016 for a town hall next week in New Hampshire. CNN is desperate for ratings so I would imagine they'll be happy to let Trump and his cult followers say pretty much whatever they want which may appeal to some of the disaffected Fox viewers who've stopped watching in the wake of Tucker Carlson's firing. Vanity Fair spoke with CNN political director David Chalian, who acknowledged that Trump is "unique" what with all the impeachments and crimes and coups and all, but said they plan to treat him "just like any other candidate." Great.

Maybe someone in the audience will broach the subject of his legal woes even if CNN declines to be so rude as to mention it. If there are some Fox defectors who tune in to see their idol, they might learn something. The Washington Post's Philip Bump took a look at the coverage he gets on these issues on the right-wing networks and it's pretty astonishing. For instance, regarding the rape trial that's currently unfolding in New York, "this year CNN mentioned Carroll more than 230 times and MSNBC more than 440. Fox News has mentioned her seven times."

Or how about the Georgia election investigation:

If charges emerge in Fulton County, Ga., as seems likely, it may actually surprise the network's audience. Since Trump was first recorded cajoling state officials to overturn the results of the 2020 election in January 2021, Fox News has mentioned the county in the context of Trump less than 100 times. CNN has mentioned it more than 800 times and MSNBC twice as often as CNN.

This pattern holds for all the Trump legal scandals. It's no wonder that Republican voters don't care about them. If they're aware of them at all they think they aren't serious or dangerous to Donald Trump.

The results of this CBS poll are a testament to Trump's insight that constant repetition of lies, no matter how preposterous, will convince people that the truth is in the eye of the beholder. Many of his followers certainly believe every word he says but just as many know he didn't win the election and are at least somewhat aware that he is scandal-plagued for a reason. They admire him for refusing to acknowledge the facts and have willingly joined him in bending the truth to fit their desires. It must be a powerful feeling, almost like magic, to be able to live in an alternate reality and they have Trump's historic audacity to thank for that. They won't give it up easily.

However, for a few, it's wearing off and they are feeling the exhaustion of having to keep up a false front --- the veil is falling from their eyes and they can no longer look away. They are a small minority of the party but there are enough of them to deny Trump a second term if they decide they just can't do it again. Let's hope the mainstream media doesn't convince them that he's really "just like any other candidate" after all.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

MORE FROM Heather Digby Parton

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Commentary Elections 2024 Polls