What Trump's hush-money trial verdict could mean for the election

A jury is deliberating whether Donald Trump will be the first president in U.S. history to be convicted of a crime. But will a conviction have any sway on the 2024 presidential election? 

Polls and political analysts agree that a guilty verdict for Trump in his New York hush-money trial wouldn’t move the needle at all for his most ardent supporters. But it could have an impact on undecided voters and independents – and that may be enough to keep Trump from reclaiming the nation’s highest office. 

"As with everything in politics and public opinion, there are endless shifts taking place back and forth, even though the end result may be numbers that appear little changed," Alaska political consultant Art Hackney said. "Like El Cid, Trump could be mortally wounded and strapped to his horse and his supporters would ride into battle behind him. 

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"This being said, Trump’s trials and evidence of certain character issues being constantly exposed, there are voters – let’s say Nikki Haley voters – who will be wrestling right to Election Day weighing dislike for Biden with dislike for Trump. The trial(s) – regardless of results – will play into that equation." 


Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as the jury deliberates in his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 29, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Curtis Means - Pool/Getty Images)

Most polls, including the most recent one from The Hill, show Trump with a slight edge over President Biden in their November 2024 rematch. And even though the majority of voters polled by Yahoo News/YouGov say they believe Trump falsified business documents to conceal hush-money payments to a porn star (52%), only 16% of the Americans polled say they’ve been following the trial very closely. 

"The trial itself hasn’t/won’t shift voters by-and-large, but it may well play a role in influencing a tiny but impactful number of voters," Hackney said. 

A Politico/Ipsos poll released in March found that more than a third of independents said a guilty verdict would make them less likely to vote for Trump. That could impede Trump’s path to victory, depending on how close the race is. 

An ABC News/Ipsos survey found that 80% of Trump supporters say they'd still vote for him even if he’s convicted of a felony. But the remaining 20% said they’d either reconsider their support (16%) or withdraw it (4%). 

"Demographic after demographic, issue after issue, this give and take occurs throughout campaigns – always looking for a weakness which cannot be effectively defended," Hackney said. "This happens less in a race like Biden versus Trump, where there are a lot of voters who have so strongly identified with what ‘tribe’ they belong to, there is no message which can impact their support – even shooting someone in the middle of 5th Avenue NYC." 

What is Trump charged with? 

Trump was charged in New York City with 34 counts of falsifying business records, each a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

The case centered on allegations that Trump falsified internal records kept by his company to hide the true nature of payments made to his then-personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.

Cohen allegedly helped cover up Trump’s extramarital affairs with porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal by paying both of the women off. Prosecutors allege it was an effort to sway the results of the 2016 presidential election. 

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Hackney said he can’t think of another candidate on the national stage who could politically survive such salacious allegations.

"Times and circumstances have evolved," Daron Shaw, a politics professor and chair at the University of Texas, told Fox News Digital. "And while the specific findings of the jury could matter, I think there is a sense that a conviction in this case would not appreciably change the dynamics of the race." 

Will Trump go to jail if convicted? 

Trump was charged with 34 felony counts, each punishable by up to four years in prison.

If he were found guilty on all counts, he’d technically be eligible for a maximum sentencing of 136 years in prison – though it’d be common and expected for the judge to issue the sentences concurrently, meaning the penalties for all the counts would be served simultaneously and not exceed the maximum of four years in prison. 

Given Trump’s age – 77 – and the fact that he’s a first-time offender, the likelihood of receiving the maximum sentencing – even if to serve it concurrently – is slim. The judge could also issue a lighter sentence including fines, probation or community service, so jail time may not even be in the cards at all. 

But, if Trump’s sentence does include jail time, it’s likely to be postponed pending the outcome of his appeal.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll indicated a two-point shift away from Trump if the former president is convicted, with a bigger six-point shift if Trump is put behind bars, Fox News Digital reported

FOX’s Catherine Stoddard and Megan Ziegler contributed to this report.