Poll takeaways: No, Trump shouldn't have taken those White House papers back to Mar-a-Lago

Susan Page
  • Most said Trump's decision to take boxes of White House documents "warrants further investigation."
  • Voters overwhelming support the idea of banning members of Congress from trading stocks.
  • Nearly a third of those polled said they don't think the COVID pandemic will ever end.

Donald Trump has dismissed the furor as no big deal, but most Americans take a dim view of the former president carting away boxes of White House documents, some of them classified, when he moved back to his Florida home at Mar-a-Lago.

In a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, 56% agreed with a statement that the episode was "a serious issue of governance that warrants further investigation." Thirty-one percent said instead that it was "an issue fueled mostly by partisanship that doesn't warrant further investigation."

Further investigation it is getting. The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Friday requested new information from the National Archives about the material in 15 boxes of White House records it retrieved from Trump's Florida home, as well as other presidential records he may have tried to destroy in violation of the Presidential Records Act.

President Donald Trump holds up documents as he speaks about the coronavirus in April 2020.

More:Lawmakers ask National Archives to probe whether Donald Trump took White House documents to Mar-a-Lago

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While there's a predictable partisan divide on the question, more than 1 in 4 Republicans, 27%, called it a serious issue. So did 88% of Democrats. 

That's one of a series of takeaways from the survey of 1,000 registered voters by landline and cellphone Feb. 15-20. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Here are some other findings, from corruption to COVID-19. 

'Legitimate political discourse'? 

The survey found a bit of distance between Trump's fiercest loyalists and a third of Republicans on how to characterize the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. The Republican National Committee caused a stir this month when it passed a resolution calling the attack "legitimate political discourse."

Among Republicans, 33% disagreed with that statement; 54% agreed. Democrats disagreed 80%-12%. Political independents disagreed 54%-31%.

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More:GOP censures Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, calls Jan. 6 riot 'legitimate political discourse'

Overall, 57% of those surveyed said Trump bears blame for the storming of the Capitol. That's somewhat lower than in the USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll in January 2021, soon after the assault. Then, 62% said he deserved some or a lot of the blame.

Rioters scale a wall at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Fears for the future of America's democracy remain high: 57% were "very worried," and another 28% were "somewhat worried" about what's ahead. That concern crossed party lines.

Congress seen as a bunch of crooks

Voters overwhelmingly support the idea of banning members of Congress from trading stocks. The proposal is gaining traction on Capitol Hill, including a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by liberal Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and conservative Republican Steve Daines of Montana.

In all, 80% back a ban on stock trades by members of Congress; 77% would extend the ban to their spouses and 59% to their children.

More:Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls for members of Congress to sell all individual stocks

That reflects a remarkably dyspeptic view of lawmakers who, after all, were elected by voters to represent them in Washington. 

A 56% majority agreed with the statement that most members of Congress were dishonest, although there are a few who are honest. Only one-third, 33%, agreed most members of Congress were honest, although there are a few who are dishonest.

The conundrum over COVID

Most Americans believe COVID-19 is going to be around for a while, and they are split on what to do about that.

About half, 48%, say the priority now should be resuming normal lives, even if it means not taking some protections. Nearly as many, 44%, say the priority should be controlling COVID-19, even if that delays a return to normal life.

More:More than 70% of Americans can take off their masks indoors with new CDC guidelines on COVID risk

The particulars of that debate, including vaccine requirements and mask mandates, are now being waged at the White House, statehouses, city halls and schools.

Only about one-third of those polled, 31%, predicted the pandemic would be over in the United States by the end of this year. Another 25% said it would end "in a few years."

Those are the optimists. A third, 32%, said it would "never" end.