Poll shows GOP support for Trump’s prosecution conspiracy theory

Donald Trump has embraced a countless number of conspiracy theories in recent years, but in the wake of his criminal conviction, one has become especially important: Voters should discard the jury’s verdict, the argument goes, because the entire prosecution was a plot orchestrated by President Joe Biden and his team.

As we recently discussed, the GOP doesn’t just want this conspiracy theory to be true, the party needs it to be true. It’s foundational to the Republicans’ defense: All of their other absurd “weaponization” talking points are built on top of it. If it were to collapse, Trump and his allies might actually have to contend with the expansive evidence of the former president’s criminal wrongdoing.

The bad news for the party is that there’s literally no evidence to substantiate the conspiracy theory. In fact, all of the evidence points in the opposite direction, and a former member of Trump’s own legal defense team panned the theory as “ridiculous” and an “uneducated, unintelligent” claim.

The good news for Republicans is that they’ve had great success convincing their base to believe it anyway. A Washington Post analysis explained:

A new CBS News-YouGov poll gets at a question I’ve been hoping someone would ask for a while. It gauged just how many Americans buy into the baseless idea that Biden had something to do with the successful charges against Trump in Manhattan. Turns out, it’s … and 80 percent of Republicans.

It’s worth emphasizing that the same poll found that a 57% majority of Americans do not believe that the criminal charges against the former president were brought because of “directions that came from the Biden administration,” rather than merely by “prosecutors in New York.”

But for four out of five GOP voters, the conspiracy theory has merit. Maybe they don’t care that there’s no evidence to support the argument, or maybe they’re convinced that there is secret evidence that only Republican partisans are aware of. Either way, there’s a fresh data point in the larger “reality gap“ thesis.

As regular readers know, there are a variety of partisan myths that Republicans embrace with unnerving certainty, as if they just know in their gut that the falsehoods are true, reality notwithstanding. They know, for example, that Trump created the greatest economy ever (he didn’t). They know that the Russia scandal was discredited (it wasn’t). They know that the Obama-era IRS scandalously mistreated conservatives (it didn’t).

They also know that Biden secretly lost the 2020 race (he didn’t), the crime rate is secretly getting worse (it isn’t), Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department has been “weaponized” against conservative victims (it hasn’t), and that the unemployment rate got worse after Trump left office (it didn’t).

The longer this list becomes, the more difficult it is for democracy and the public discourse.

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