After Trump verdict, measuring Pa. voter reactions will take time

In a state like Pa., where the last two presidential elections have been decided by about one percentage point, a "small effect can change the result,” said one policy expert.

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan criminal court, May 21, 2024, in New York.

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan criminal court, May 21, 2024, in New York. (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Trump’s felony conviction

This story originally appeared on WITF.

In the wake of former President Donald Trump’s conviction in New York, the big unknown is how voters in Pennsylvania will react.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was found guilty Thursday on 34 counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments to an adult film actress ahead of the 2016 election.

Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 and lost the battleground state four years later, both by narrow margins.

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Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research and the Director of the Floyd Institute for Public Policy at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, said when it comes to close presidential races, anything could affect the outcome.

“In a state like Pennsylvania, where the election for president the last two times have been decided by about one percentage point, a small effect can change the result,” he said.

Yost says it may take a few weeks to gauge the effect the court case may have on public opinion.

“It’s probably too soon for us to say the exact implications of this,” he said. “But I think one thing is for sure in my mind, and that is that this adds another level of uncertainty to the race.”

Trump is still facing racketeering charges in Georgia related to his attempts to overturn that state’s results in 2020 He also faces two federal cases, one concerning possession of classified documents and another over his alleged attempts to subvert the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election.

Yost said the New York verdicts may not have the biggest effect on voters, given the white-collar nature of the case, compared to the severity of the three other cases that have yet to go to trial.

“I think that’s probably one reason people think that this one may not be that big a deal because they didn’t think the charges are equivalent in their seriousness to either the January 6th activities and events or the documents case,” he said.

Yost says areas to watch for potential impact on voters’ opinions are swing counties like Erie, Northampton and Lehigh.

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In 2020, President Joe Biden won Northampton by one percent.

Yost emphasizes polls are snapshots of the state electorate at a particular time and should be taken with a grain of salt, since they are not indicative of what may actually happen in the  November election.

“We don’t know the effect of this verdict on people’s attitudes,” he said. “And so all of these things lead us to, or should remind us, to expect some volatility here because we are in a circumstance that is pretty unique.”

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