Rioters supporting then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021.
- Trump and the GOP’s efforts to minimize the Capitol riot have paid off, politically.
- A year after the Jan. 6 attack, a declining portion of Republican voters are concerned about accountability for the riot.
- Trump has spent the last year downplaying the riot and leaning into the lie that the 2020 election was “rigged.”
A year after the deadly Capitol riot, former President Donald Trump’s campaign to undermine faith in the 2020 election and downplay the events of January 6 is succeeding.
Most Republican voters continue to believe that President Joe Biden’s election was made possible by widespread voter fraud, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And the minority of GOP voters who support Congress’ investigation into the storming of the Capitol has shrunk in recent months.
A year into Biden’s term, two-thirds of Republican voters believe the false claim that “voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the 2020 election,” according to an NPR/Ipsos poll published Monday. The percentage of Republicans who say they accept the results of the 2020 election — less than half — has stayed static over the last year, NPR’s polling found. A USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll released on Tuesday similarly found 58% of Republicans say Biden wasn’t legitimately elected.
Republican support for the House select committee’s investigation into January 6 has declined over time. In December, 16% of Republicans approved of the committee’s work, down from 18% in October and 25% in July, according to Morning Consult. Approval among Democrats has declined slightly from roughly 80% earlier last year to 76% in December. The share of Republicans who believe it’s important for the government to continue investigating the riot dropped from 46% to 39% between June and October. Two-thirds of Republicans told Morning Consult in October that there’s been too much focus on January 6.
A whopping 77% of Republicans and GOP-leaning respondents said they weren’t confident the committee’s investigation will be fair and reasonable, according to a September Pew poll. A large majority of Republicans — 66% — don’t even believe the Capitol riot was an attack on the US government, an October Quinnipiac poll found.
Former President Donald Trump and his allies have spent the last year promoting the election lies that provoked the riot, downplaying the events of January 6, defending the rioters, and spreading conspiracy theories about Jan. 6. Trump, right-wing pundits, and GOP lawmakers have falsely suggested leftist antifa members may have been behind the riot and said that it was a false flag operation orchestrated by the FBI. As the House committee has uncovered new evidence of Trump’s refusal to act to stop the riot, the former president has only doubled down on his strategy of rationalizing his loyalists’ violent attempt to overturn the election result.
“What happened on Jan. 6 was a protest against a rigged election, that’s what it was,” Trump told supporters in Dallas in December. “This wasn’t an insurrection.”
The country’s most influential conservative pundits have echoed the same messages. Fox News primetime host Tucker Carlson released a conspiracy theory-filled Jan. 6 documentary that was widely condemned, even by some Fox employees. At the same time, some Republican lawmakers who initially condemned the riot in harsh terms and blamed Trump for it have changed their tune.
Trump and the GOP have aggressively attacked the House committee and targeted the Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the riot, most prominently Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the two House Republicans who sit on the Jan. 6 select committee. They’ve also attacked the federal prosecutors, falsely claiming the rioters are being unfairly targeted and punished because of their political beliefs — rather than as a consequence of the nearly 1,000 assaults on law enforcement documented that day.
Republican support for prosecuting Capitol rioters has also plummeted over the last year. While 79% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said last March that it was very or somewhat important for the government to prosecute those who stormed the Capitol, just 57% said the same in September, according to Pew polling. Among Democrats, support for prosecuting the rioters has remained constant at around 95%.
While Republicans’ confidence in their party’s direction dropped to 51% in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6, it has since rebounded to 65% who now believe it’s headed in the right direction, according to recent Morning Consult polling.
Trump has simultaneously reclaimed his influence in the GOP. In the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6 2021, Trump’s approval rating sank to the lowest of any outgoing US president. But his approval numbers have since recovered and he’s regained a firm grip on his party, whose leaders rarely publicly contradict or criticize him. The GOP’s reputation among its own voters has also bounced back.
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