The numbers behind Trump’s confidence in the Jan. 6 indictment won’t matter

The most common sentiment among Republican voters about January 6, 2021 is not that it was an assault on democracy or that Donald Trump is the real winner of the 2020 election.

They are above that.

The polling industry, like the Republican electorate, has also largely moved away. The most recent figures come from surveys carried out last December or early January, timed for the second anniversary of the riot earlier this year. And they tell, for the most part, the same story.

Like a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll end of December showed: 73% of Republicans agreed there had been too much focus on Jan. 6.

While the GOP electorate may be eager to move on from this point on, that doesn’t mean it won’t matter in the primary. Indeed, as new federal criminal charges loom over Donald Trump for his alleged efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election from Joe Biden, Trump’s rivals still have a chance to distance themselves from the former president.

That’s because, despite this overly focused number, Republican public opinion around the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot is complicated.

In the days and weeks immediately following January 6, Republicans, like all Americans, overwhelmingly disapproved of the actions of the rioters.

That’s no longer the case: More Republicans still say they disapprove of the attack on Capitol Hill, but there’s a growing bloc in the GOP that sympathizes with both the rioters’ demands and actions.

That’s part of the reason Trump’s opponents have been tiptoeing around the issue since the former president decried receiving a “target letter” from the Justice Department last weekend. The number of Republicans who agree with what Trump supporters did on Jan. 6 is still a distinct minority — but that doesn’t mean the majority cares much or thinks it disqualifies Trump from running again.

So what do Republicans really think about what happened on January 6? Here are five takeaways from the polling data:

Few Republicans back Jan. 6 rioters — but that share is growing

For all of Trump’s endorsement of the Jan. 6 attack – whether he’s suggesting he’ll pardon those convicted of federal crimes or to be serenaded at a political event by rioters in a song recorded on a prison phone line – it’s not popular even among Republican voters.

But opinions are softening. A Economist/YouGov poll conducted around the first of the year — timed to the second anniversary of the attack — found that 49% of Republicans disapproved of events on Capitol Hill that day. That was down 25 points from a poll taken the week after Jan. 6.

But about half of Republicans who disapproved of the Jan. 6 attack are still significantly higher than the 32% who said they approved of it in the latest Economist/YouGov poll — up from 16% immediately after the riot.

Republicans are less likely to blame Trump for the attack

It may have been Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election that brought his supporters to Washington, but most Republicans give the former president a free pass when it comes to the Capitol breach.

In the December 2022 POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 40% of Republican voters said Trump had “no responsibility” for “the events that led to a group of people attacking police and breaking into” the Capitol, while an additional 16% said he was not overly responsible.

Only 14% of Republicans described Trump as “very responsible” for Jan. 6, compared to 45% of all voters. In total, only 31% of GOP voters said Trump was “very” or “somewhat responsible” — even though 59% of all voters attribute that level of responsibility to Trump.

Republicans are tired of January 6

Last December, Quinnipiac University asked voters to choose between two sentences they agreed with the most: The Capitol “seizure” “was an attack on democracy that should never be forgotten,” or “the storming” of the Capitol is overemphasized, “and it’s time to move on.”

The results among Republican voters were lopsided: 79% said it was time to move on. Only 16% said January 6 should not be forgotten.

But that puts Republicans at odds with the broader electorate. A majority of voters, 56%, believe that the events of January 6 should never be forgotten. About four in 10, 39%, think it’s time to move on. The numbers among crucial independent voters are nearly identical: 56% say Jan. 6 should not be forgotten; 38% say it’s time to move on.

GOP voters don’t view Trump’s conduct as criminal

Quinnipiac also asked voters whether or not Trump’s “efforts to alter the results” of the 2020 presidential election were criminal. Overall, half of voters, 50%, say they were, compared to 42% who said Trump had not committed a crime.

But only 9% of Republicans thought Trump’s maneuvering to stay in power despite losing the election was a crime. About eight in 10, 81%, said Trump’s actions were not criminal.

Few Republicans say Jan. 6 will affect their 2024 vote — anyway

In the December 2022 POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, just 16% of GOP voters said the events of January 6 would “have a major impact” on their vote in the 2024 presidential election. That, however, could include the small but real group of Republicans who endorse the attack on the Capitol and support Trump’s efforts to remain president despite losing the election.

(Trump, who announced in November 2022 that he was running again, was already a declared candidate when the poll was taken.)

Another 19% of Republicans said it would have “minor impact,” while nearly two in three, 65%, said it would have no impact.

Overall, about a third of voters, 34%, said Jan. 6 would have a major impact. But many of them are Democrats reluctant to cross over and vote for Trump anyway. A narrow majority of Democrats, 53%, said it would have a major impact.

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