CBS News poll on Jan. 6 attack 3 years later: Though most still condemn, Republican disapproval continues to wane



Three years ago, the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol brought immediate, overwhelming and bipartisan disapproval from Americans, and for the most part, it still does.

But in the years since, the minority who approve has actually been growing, today reaching the highest it’s been. That is underpinned by softening Republican disapproval, with the MAGA segment of the party even less likely to disapprove. And misinformation about the events continues to find sizable acceptance.

The nation divides over whether former President Donald Trump’s actions surrounding these events should prevent him from appearing on ballots.

Though most Republicans don’t condone the actions of those who forced their way into the Capitol, the strength of their disapproval has waned over time. Half of Republicans strongly disapproved just after the attack, and now just a third do. Meanwhile, outright approval in the party has risen.

And Republicans who identify as part of the MAGA movement are nearly twice as likely as the non-MAGA wing to outright approve of the actions of the rioters.

Even in the wake of prosecutions and convictions for many of those involved, over a third of Republicans endorse the conspiracy theory that those who entered the Capitol were mostly people pretending to be Trump supporters.

A sizable majority of Republicans would support their pardons just the same.

There are divergent views — perhaps also owing to the effects of misinformation — about what law enforcement at the Capitol was doing that day. Democrats are more likely than Republicans and independents to say law enforcement was exclusively trying to stop the protest.

Nearly half of Republicans say law enforcement was trying to encourage the protest — either exclusively or along with trying to stop it.

Descriptors of the events of Jan. 6 have also shifted over the years and are as partisan today as ever. Each side describes what happened as a protest that went too far, but for most Democrats, it was also an “insurrection,” an attempt to “overthrow the government” and trying to overturn the election and keep Trump in power.

It was “defending freedom” to most Republicans and “patriotism” to about half. They use these descriptors more frequently now than they did in January 2021.

But none of these general sentiments are brand new this year; we saw similar ones at the two-year mark. And throughout the GOP presidential campaign, Republican voters have told us they don’t want to hear criticism of Jan. 6 participants from their candidates.

What next?

Two-thirds of Republicans continue to support Trump’s suggestion to grant pardons to those involved in the Jan. 6 attacks.

And the country divides, with mostly Democrats in favor, on the idea of removing Trump from the ballot if states believe he committed insurrection. Overall, a narrow majority would keep him on election ballots.

Many Americans are uneasy about the prospects of peaceful transfer of power in America: half the country expects there to be violence from the side that loses in future elections.

Most Americans continue to think U.S. democracy and the rule of law are under threat. That majority feeling hasn’t abated in the years since the Jan. 6 attack.

This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,157 U.S. adult residents interviewed between January 3-5, 2024. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as past vote. The margin of error is ±2.8 points.



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