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Slight majority say Trump should be charged with crime over Jan. 6 role, poll finds

The Post-ABC survey finds that 52 percent say Trump should be charged while 42 percent say he should not

Pro-Trump demonstrators at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg News)
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Sixteen months after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, a slight majority of Americans say former president Donald Trump should be charged with a crime for urging his supporters to march to the building on Jan. 6, 2021, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The poll finds 52 percent saying Trump should be charged and 42 percent saying he should not. Opinions are very similar to a Post-ABC poll taken one week after the attack, when 54 percent said Trump should be charged for inciting the attack and 43 percent opposed charges.

The new Post-ABC poll also shows that majorities of Republicans and Democrats want party leaders to follow Trump and President Biden, respectively. Trump is on stronger footing inside his party than Biden, but both face sizable percentages who say they want to go a different direction.

The Attack: The Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol was neither a spontaneous act nor an isolated event.

The 45th president has repeatedly denied responsibility for the Capitol siege by a pro-Trump mob. The attack came after Trump spoke at the Ellipse, where he urged supporters to “fight like hell” and march to the Capitol.

It’s unclear whether a congressional committee investigation of the Jan. 6 attack will ultimately lead to a criminal referral to the Justice Department if it finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but the panel has previously argued that the former president might have engaged in criminal conspiracy.

Strong partisan divisions remain when it comes to views of whether Trump should face legal consequences: 86 percent of Republicans oppose prosecuting Trump versus 88 percent of Democrats who support charging the former president. Independents support charging Trump by 56 percent to 38 percent.

Read the poll crosstabs

Partisanship also colors opinions of the House select committee’s investigation of the attack. Overall, 40 percent of Americans say the committee is conducting a “fair and impartial” investigation of the events surrounding the attack while 40 percent say the committee is not. A clear majority of Democrats (68 percent) say the committee is conducting a fair probe while a nearly identical share of Republicans (69 percent) say the investigation is unfair.

Independents are split, with 39 percent saying the investigation is fair and impartial and 38 percent saying it is not.

While two Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) — were appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to the committee, many Republicans have sought to discredit the work of investigators. The Republican National Committee this year declared the attack as “legitimate political discourse” and voted to censure the two Republicans serving on the panel.

That divide extends to Biden and Trump voters — 71 percent of Biden voters say the House investigation is fair and impartial, while 68 percent of Trump voters say it is not.

However, as the House committee investigating the attack nears the public phase of its investigation beginning next month, there may be an opportunity to engage a new audience, as 20 percent of Americans volunteered that they have no opinion about the panel’s fairness.

The committee will hold hearings in prime time beginning June 9, The Post reported last week, which could raise the profile of the panel.

Key investigations involving Donald Trump: Where they stand

The poll finds most Republicans are loyal to Trump, with 60 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying that GOP leaders should follow Trump’s leadership, while 34 percent say they should lead the party in a different direction. In a poll one week after the attack, 57 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners said they wanted to follow Trump’s lead.

Trump has hinted that he plans to run for president again in 2024. But as the early jockeying among potential GOP candidates, develops, Trump’s influence within the GOP is down from 2018, when a Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 76 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying the party’s leaders in Congress should follow his lead.

Trump’s influence is weaker among Republicans under age 40, moderates and independents who lean toward the party, according to the Post-ABC survey.

Just over 4 in 10 (41 percent) of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents under 40 years old say the party should follow his lead, while 49 percent say they prefer a different direction. By contrast, 68 percent of Republicans 40 and older want the GOP to follow Trump and 27 percent want to go in a different direction.

Moderate Republicans are split over the future of the party, with 46 percent who say they believe the GOP should follow Trump versus 44 percent who say the party should go in a new direction. Independents who lean Republican also are less likely to say the party should follow Trump than rank-and-file Republicans, 50 percent compared with 65 percent.

As for Biden’s grip on his party, a narrow majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say their party’s leaders (53 percent) should follow the sitting president. Nearly 4 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaners (38 percent) say Democratic leaders should go in a different direction than Biden.

Fifty-eight percent of rank-and-file Democrats say the party should follow him, compared with 46 percent of independents who lean Democratic. Younger Democrats are far less supportive of Biden than older members of the party, with 34 percent of Democrats under 40 years old saying the party should follow him, compared with 67 percent of Democrats ages 40 and older saying the same thing.

In contrast to Trump, Biden is slightly stronger among moderates within his party, with 61 percent of moderate Democrats saying the party should follow his lead, compared with 50 percent of liberals. Trump is still favored more among conservative Republicans, with 69 percent saying the GOP should follow him.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted April 24 to April 28 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults, contacted through cellphones and landlines. The margin of error is plus- or minus-3.5 percentage points for overall results and is 5.5 points among the samples of 455 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and 450 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.

The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.