More than a quarter of Republicans approve of the January 6 Capitol attack, according to a new poll. More than half think the deadly riot was a form of legitimate political discourse.
The Economist and YouGov survey said 27% of Republicans either strongly or somewhat approved of the riot on 6 January 2021, which Donald Trump incited in an attempt to overturn his election defeat by Joe Biden.
Nine deaths, including law enforcement suicides, have been linked to the attack. More than 1,000 people have been arrested and hundreds convicted.
The longest sentence yet handed down is 10 years in prison, to a former New York police officer who assaulted Capitol officers. The statutory maximum sentence for seditious conspiracy, the most serious convictions yet secured, is 20 years.
Trump was impeached for inciting an insurrection, but acquitted. The House January 6 committee made four criminal referrals regarding Trump to the Department of Justice. The federal investigation continues.
The Republican party itself has called the riot legitimate political discourse.
In February 2022, a Republican National Committee resolution said Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the two Republicans on the January 6 committee, were pursuing the “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse”.
A Democratic committee member, Jamie Raskin, said: “The Republican party is so off the deep end now that they are describing an attempted coup and a deadly insurrection as political expression.
“It is a scandal that historians will be aghast at.”
More than a year later, the Economist/YouGov poll said 54% of Republicans thought rioters “participated in legitimate political discourse”. Among all voters, that total was 34%.
The poll also said 8% of Republicans strongly approved of the takeover of the Capitol and 19% somewhat approved.
Among all respondents, 19% approved of the riot “to stop congressional proceedings”. The figure for those who did not approve was 65%, leaving 15% “not sure”.
Asked about Trump’s responsibility for the riot, 49% of Republicans said he had some, from a little to a lot. Among all voters, that figure rose 68%.
Trump is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 and leading most polls, despite facing legal jeopardy over January 6 and on many other fronts.
Respondents to the Economist/YouGov poll were also asked about the decision by the Republican House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, to hand more than 40,000 hours of Capitol security footage to Tucker Carlson.
The Fox News host has used the footage to show a highly partial version of events on January 6, arguing most rioters were peaceful and claiming without discernible irony the attack has been taken out of context for political purposes.
McCarthy has been widely criticised. He has said other networks will have access to the footage.
Among Republicans in the new poll, 61% approved of McCarthy’s decision to release the footage to Carlson and Fox News. Among all voters, 42% did.
Republicans under McCarthy, including the far-right Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, plan to stage an official visit to individuals jailed over January 6.
Trump recorded a charity single, with a choir of prisoners.