According to the latest PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, nearly half of Americans think former President Donald Trump should face criminal charges for his role in the deadly January 6, 2021 uprising at the US Capitol. But very few – about a quarter – think Trump will actually be prosecuted.
Since hearings of the House committee investigating the attack began in June, new evidence and testimony has revealed how much Trump and members of his administration knew about the potential for violence, as well as the former president’s own armed forces. The supporters embraced and was aware of his reluctance to intervene. When chaos overwhelmed the Capitol.
While most Americans overall blame Trump for what happened that day, according to this last poll, public opinion is divided across party lines. Nearly all Democrats — 92 percent — and most independents, but only one in five Republicans, agree.
The final scheduled January 6 hearing is scheduled to begin Thursday at 8 p.m. ET and is expected to offer a minute-by-minute account of what Trump did and didn’t do as the capitol took over. In September, the committee is due to release a report of its findings.
Meanwhile, the federal prosecutor responsible for indicting suspects related to the attack is also monitoring the trial. Unlike Congress, “we do not conduct our investigations publicly,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday at the Justice Department.
Garland’s staff engaged in “the most comprehensive investigation and most important investigation the Department of Justice has ever filed,” he said during a briefing, “voting to hold everyone accountable who seeks to overturn a lawful Trying is criminally responsible for the election, and we must do it in a manner full of honesty and professionalism.” According to Politico, about 900 people have been arrested so far in connection with the attack. Garland also said he had to fix it because the investigation “cuts across the fundamentals of American democracy.”
Half of Americans say the January 6, 2021 events at the US Capitol were an insurgency and a threat to democracy. This includes 86 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
In contrast, Republicans are more likely than any other group — at 40 percent — to view that day as an act of political speech protected by the First Amendment, compared with 19 percent of Americans overall. Forty percent of Republicans also said it was an unfortunate event that should live in the past, as did a quarter of all American adults.
Trump’s survival after scandals
According to this latest poll, more than a year and a half after Trump left office, 58 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of him. This includes 89 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents. But 83 percent of Republicans say they still favor Trump, as well as nearly a third of all Americans.
Trump’s favorability among the GOP exceeds that of a handful of other Republicans who are seen as potential rivals for a 2024 White House bid:
- 62 percent of Republicans favor former Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to leave the Capitol before the Electoral College votes were counted, even as crowds chanted for his execution. Witness testimony at the January 6 hearing revealed that Trump told his staff he believed Pence was worth that risk as he defied Trump and continued counting the results of the 2020 presidential election. .
- 13 percent are in favor of Republican Representative Liz Cheney, R-Vyo, deputy chairman of the January 6 committee, whose party was stripped of her leadership role over her refusal to support Trump and his false allegations of widespread election fraud. in 2020. Cheney found his strongest support in the party across the aisle, as Democrats support him at 60 percent. Overall, 34 percent of Americans viewed Cheney favorably.
- 63 percent of Republicans favor Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose political style and essence have invited comparisons to Trump. Of the four, DeSantis had the highest percentage of Republicans they say were unsure or had never heard of them, at 27 percent.
According to GOP strategist and conservative pollster Whit Ayers, most Republicans are “even open to a new candidate who carries less stuff than they believe as Trump’s nominee in 2024.”
“It all depends on who the options are,” Ayers said. “Most of the options here are not known nationally.”
Jeffrey Engel, who directs the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Trump’s political resilience is unlike anything else in US presidential history.
“As with everything with Donald Trump, history gives us no guidance,” Engel said.
It’s hard to ignore a comparison, although today’s political dynamics are almost the opposite. In 1974, after an investigation revealed that President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign had spoofed phones at Democratic National Committee headquarters, Nixon resigned in disgrace before being impeached. He withdrew from public life and partially rebuilt his reputation in foreign policy during subsequent decades, Engel said.
Ahead of the Reagan administration, presidents sought Nixon’s advice on various policy matters, but he refrained from sharing the limelight with him. If political campaign websites had existed, Engel said, no one would have promoted great photos of Nixon posing with their candidate. In today’s political climate, the same is not the case for Trump and GOP candidates.
After Nixon fell from power, Engel said, “There was no one in the Republican Party who said, ‘You know what would be cool? Let’s make Nixon our standard bearer.'”
To understand Trump’s grip among Republicans, Ayres said the January 6 hearing is “the wrong place to look,” and that most Republicans would vote for Trump again if it meant getting rid of President Joe Biden.
Who is following the January 6 hearing?
The hearing is unlikely to be a factor in shaping Republican views as most say they are not paying attention to the investigation. According to this latest poll, 58 percent of Americans said they were paying at least some attention to the hearing, while another 41 percent said they weren’t paying any attention, including 56 percent of Republicans. Democrats are the most credible audience for the January 6 hearing, with 80 percent following.
“It’s almost an article of faith for a Republican to say, ‘I’m not paying attention to this stuff,'” Ayres said.
Read more: Most Americans Think the Supreme Court’s Overturning of Row Was More About Politics Than Law
No matter how frightening these hearings are, there is little to suggest that they will inform the way people vote during the mid-November period. In fact, only 9 percent of American adults said the decline would be tops for them, including 17 percent of Democrats and 2 percent of Republicans. A vast majority of Americans — 37 percent — said they care most about inflation, including 57 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of independents.
For Democrats, abortion is the top concern. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June and the loss of federal protections for a medical procedure, 29 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of Americans chose abortion as the most important.
A lot can change between summer and November, but Neil Malhotra, a political economist at Stanford University, said people will vote for candidates who champion policies that make their “lives better.” It is difficult to comprehend the danger of unraveling American democracy.
“People are struggling in this economy. They are struggling with prices. Democracy is good to care about, but for most people, it is these tangible issues that matter most, Malhotra said. “It’s not that people’s memories are short – life gets in the way.”
At the same time, American belief in the fate of democracy amid division and treason remains as fragile today as it was in the days following the rebellion, with 77 percent of American adults saying they worried about the future.
PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist Poll conducted a poll on July 11-17 that included 1,160 American adults (margin of error of 4.1 percentage points) and 1,020 registered voters (margin of error of 4.4 percentage points).