As a Senate showdown looms over the creation of an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll reveals just how partisan and polarized public perceptions of the attack have become — and how those perceptions are shaping the clash in Congress.
The survey of 1,588 U.S. adults, which was conducted from May 24 to May 26, found that less than half of Republicans (41 percent) say supporters of then-President Donald Trump who gathered on Jan. 6 at the Capitol to rally against the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory bear “some” or “a great deal” of the blame for the subsequent riot, which left several people dead and more than 140 injured. Less than a quarter (23 percent) blame Trump himself, and most (52 percent) say he is “not at all” to blame.
Yet a full 73 percent of Republicans pin “some” or “a great deal” of responsibility on “left-wing protesters trying to make Trump look bad,” even though both the FBI and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have rejected the falsehood that leftist protesters were involved.
The vast majority of Democrats, meanwhile, say blame for the deadliest attack on the Capitol in two centuries falls on the Trump supporters who assembled in Washington (84 percent), Trump himself (83 percent) and Republicans who claimed the election was stolen (79 percent). Most Americans (63 percent, 55 percent and 56 percent, respectively) agree.
As a result of growing resistance among rank-and-file Republicans — and the electoral backlash it could provoke — GOP lawmakers are poised to filibuster an independent inquiry as early as Thursday. The move would underscore the power of a Senate minority determined to kill even bipartisan legislation and possibly trigger a larger effort by Democrats to alter a procedural tactic they say has outlived its purpose.
“We have a mob overtake the Capitol, and we can’t get the Republicans to join us in making [a] historic record of that event? That is sad,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told the Associated Press. “That tells you what’s wrong with the Senate and what’s wrong with the filibuster.”
Amid a months-long coordinated effort by “a legion of conservative activists, media personalities and elected officials … to rewrite the story of what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6,” as the Washington Post recently reported, Republican voters have become far less inclined to see that day’s events as unwarranted.
In late January, nearly three-quarters of them (71 percent) told Yahoo News and YouGov that the Capitol attack was “not justified”; today that number has fallen 14 points, to 57 percent. Nearly a quarter (21 percent) now think the attack was justified; another 22 percent aren’t sure. And a majority of Republicans (52 percent) say the people who participated on Jan. 6 were “primarily peaceful and law-abiding,” even as most Americans (51 percent) view the same participants as “primarily violent and lawless.”
Likewise, just 18 percent of Republicans say Biden “won the election fair and square”; nearly two-thirds (64 percent) believe the election was “rigged and stolen from Trump.” Even more (72 percent) say that enough fraud occurred in 2020 to “influence the outcome.”
Against that backdrop, it isn’t hard to grasp why just 10 percent of Republicans want to “hold Trump and others accountable for their role in the attack”; why 62 percent say “there have been enough [Jan. 6] investigations already”; and why less than a quarter (23 percent) now favor “the creation of an independent commission modeled after the 9/11 Commission.” These numbers help explain why Senate Republicans are prepared to filibuster the effort.
Pluralities of Americans see the issue differently. More support an independent commission (44 percent) than oppose it (34 percent). More believe “we still need to find out the truth of what happened” (47 percent) than believe there have been enough investigations already (34 percent). And more would prefer to hold Trump and others accountable (43 percent) than to “put the attack behind us” (41 percent).
Yet resistance among Republicans has prevented such views from achieving majority support.
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,588 U.S. adults interviewed online from May 24 to 26, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or non-vote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.8 percent.
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