A plurality of American voters want President-elect Joe Biden to make unity his top priority upon assuming the presidency in January, ahead of other legislative priorities the Democratic campaigned on.
Forty-one percent of registered voters surveyed in a new NBCLX/YouGov poll said Biden should prioritize uniting the nation over a progressive agenda, including 35% of Democrat-leaning voters, 45% of independents and 50% of Republican-leaning voters. Only 29% of registered voters – predominantly Democrats – responded that Biden should prioritize the progressive policies he campaigned on.
With 90% of respondents indicating the nation is divided at the moment, the president-elect faces a difficult challenge of satisfying both his progressive base and his conservative critics. He will also face questions regarding a series of investigations into President Trump’s financial dealings – from ongoing state investigations into alleged business, insurance and tax fraud, to yet-to-be-resolved questions about federal crimes the president may have committed while in office.
Twenty-eight percent of survey respondents – including 45% of Democratic-leaners – said Biden should direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Trump after he assumes office, with 28% of respondents – including 56% of Republican-leaners – saying he should direct the DOJ not to investigate the president.
However, a plurality of voters (37% overall) – including 40% of independent voters – said they preferred Biden provide no direction at all to prosecutors.
Prosecute or Pardon Trump?
Respondents were asked if they would support a presidential pardon for Trump, if he is found to have committed crimes while serving as president. Only 34% of registered voters – predominantly Republicans - indicated support for a pardon, while 52% of respondents – including 84% of Democrats and 47% of independents – said they opposed a Trump pardon.
Only one other president in history – Richard Nixon – has received a pardon, but his successor, Gerald Ford, explained his decision to issue the pardon as a way for the nation to move past an extremely divisive political period.
Predictably, there were clear partisan splits over whether President Trump committed crimes, with 87% of Democratic-leaning voters believing he did, while 88% of Republican-leaning voters believing he did not.
There are also questions over whether President Trump could pardon himself, but 72% of all poll respondents – including 49% of Republican-leaning voters – did not believe sitting presidents should be able to pardon themselves from federal crimes. Only 13% of all respondents said a sitting president should be able to pardon himself/herself, including 26% of Republican-leaners, 14% of independents and 3% of Democratic-leaning voters.
On the topic of whether the country is united at the present moment, only 10% of respondents said they believe it is, compared to 90% who said it is divided. Democratic-leaning voters were twice as likely as Republican-leaning voters to say the country is united at this time.
The NBCLX/YouGov poll surveyed 1,200 registered voters on Sunday, Nov. 22. Data were weighted according to age, gender, race, education and 2016 presidential vote.