The vast majority of Americans say they oppose the actions of the rioters who stormed and ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, while smaller majorities say that President Trump bears responsibility for the attack and that he should be removed from office and disqualified from serving again, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Even as the findings are sharply partisan, over half of Americans — and 1 in 8 Republicans — say Trump should be criminally charged for his role in the attacks.
The president also comes in for broad criticism over his repeated and baseless assertions that the November election was rigged and tainted by widespread fraud. By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Americans say the president has acted irresponsibly in his statements and actions since the election.
Nonetheless, the president continues to garner strong support from Republicans, among whom a clear majority agree with his false claims about what happened in November, oppose his removal from office and believe Republican elected officials should continue to follow his lead in the future.
The divide between Americans reflects views of Trump that have remained sharply partisan since his 2016 election.
Carolyn Adams, a Democrat and fitness center manager from Columbia, S.C., condemned how Trump, in his speech immediately before the Capitol riot, “was trying to activate his people to come out.”
“I think it was just crazy,” said Adams, a Biden supporter. “Brainwashed by Trump to do that. They acted like zombies, and it was very irresponsible. So many accomplished people were there: military, police, lawyers and people in jobs they worked for years and lost it in minutes due to foolishness.”
In follow-up interviews, some Trump supporters minimized the violence at the Capitol or baselessly claimed that rioters were infiltrated by radical liberals.
“The protesters that stormed the Capitol didn’t represent anything, and they were such a small handful of people,” said William Palma, a retired New York City transit worker and Trump supporter. “Their objective was to make the real Trump supporters look bad. The majority wasn’t Trump supporters; a few of them may have been.”
Glenn Smith, a Trump supporter from Tennessee, said the rioters “weren’t aggressive.”
“They stood outside the doors and chanted and raised their flags,” Smith said. “A young woman was shot and killed — if she had a weapon, that was her ignorance. It’s a whole lot more peaceful than Black Lives Matter.”
Overall, almost 9 in 10 Americans oppose the storming of the Capitol, including 8 in 10 who say they strongly oppose the attack, which resulted in the deaths of one police officer and four rioters, left dozens injured and shook the country. On this question, 98 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of independents, 87 percent of White Americans, 94 percent of Black Americans and 93 percent of Hispanic Americans agree in their opposition to the violent insurrection.
The events of the week of the attacks have resulted in people saying they are less confident in the stability of democracy in the United States, with 51 percent saying that is now their view, compared with 13 percent who say it has left them more confident and 32 percent saying the attacks and related events have made no difference in their assessment.
Most Americans say Trump deserves significant responsibility for the attack on the Capitol: 45 percent say he bears “a great deal” of responsibility, and an additional 12 percent say he bears a “good amount” of responsibility. An additional 14 percent say Trump deserves “just some” responsibility for the attack, while 28 percent say he bears none at all.
In a related question, 54 percent say he should be charged with the crime of inciting a riot. But the bipartisan agreement that was shown in condemnations of the attack on the Capitol disappears on these questions, with Democrats and Republicans sharply at odds.
Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say Trump bears responsibility for the attacks, and a similar share say he should be charged with a crime, while just 2 in 10 Republicans fix blame on Trump for what happened and more than 8 in 10 say he should not be prosecuted.
Bridget Kamas, a Republican and stay-at-home mother from Hugo, Minn., said all of those who commit crimes need to be brought to justice.
“Any protesters or looters need to be brought to justice. Every single one of them on both sides of the aisle,” Kamas said. But she added: “Where the line was crossed was going inside, and that was wrong and Trump should have spoken sooner to stop it. I don’t think he said ‘Go inside, open the doors, go into the Capitol.’ ”
John Black, a Democrat and retiree from Arizona, said he was struck by the scene of “the president of the United States outside the White House asking people to march on the Capitol, to disrupt what the U.S. Congress was doing.”
Black said it was “kind of frightening that people would feel a sense of anger that would prompt them to do something like that.”
On Wednesday, the House voted to impeach Trump on a single article of inciting insurrection. Ten Republicans joined 222 Democrats in support of the resolution, while 197 Republicans voted against it. With that vote, Trump became the first president to be impeached twice.
The Senate soon will take up the impeachment issue, though the trial probably will take place after Trump is out of office. The survey, which was conducted before it was clear when the Senate trial would begin, finds that 56 percent of Americans favor removing him from office and disqualifying him from holding office in the future. That contrasts with the 47 percent who supported his impeachment and removal from office in his first impeachment trial a year ago.
Democrats and Democratic leaners favor removal and disqualification 89 percent to 9 percent, while Republicans oppose it 85 percent to 12 percent. Among those who do not lean toward either party, 56 percent support removal from office and a ban on a future run. A majority of women (62 percent) support removal and disqualification from future office, while men are split, with 49 percent in favor and 48 percent in opposition.
Trump’s efforts to reverse the election results — which have included repeated baseless claims of widespread fraud, a campaign to pressure Georgia state officials to “find” the votes to change the results there and his attempt to persuade Vice President Pence to intervene with the final ratification of the electoral vote count in Congress — are widely criticized.
By 66 percent to 30 percent, Americans say Trump acted irresponsibly in the post-election period, and by similar margins they say there is no solid evidence for his claims of widespread voter fraud.
Most Republicans and Republican leaners, however, side with Trump on these questions: 65 percent say Trump acted responsibly after the election, and 66 percent say there is solid evidence of widespread fraud. Amid flutterings of debate over what the GOP’s path forward should be, their desire is clear: Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say party leaders should follow Trump’s lead in the future, rather than moving in a different direction.
A slight majority of Americans (52 percent) say Republican leaders went too far in supporting Trump in his baseless claims about the legitimacy of the election, but 48 percent of Republicans say those leaders did not go far enough in backing the president’s efforts.
Nonetheless, a sizable minority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — about a quarter — reject Trump’s claims of voter fraud since the election, and 35 percent say party leaders should move away from Trump in the future, a sentiment that has roughly doubled from 18 percent in 2018. These views are more common among Republicans who are moderate or liberal, those who have four-year college degrees and those who are not White evangelical Christians.
More than 6 in 10 U.S. adults say they are confident in the integrity of the U.S. electoral system, compared with more than 1 in 3 who say they are not confident, including more than 6 in 10 Republicans.
Looking forward, Americans are of mixed minds about their level of optimism about the overall system of government, with 30 percent generally optimistic, 20 percent generally pessimistic and 48 percent uncertain. Democrats are about twice as optimistic as Republicans.
Overall, 38 percent of Americans say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency. That is the lowest measurement for him since fall 2019 in Post-ABC polling. The 60 percent who disapprove is the highest since summer 2018, as is the fact that 52 percent of Americans say they “strongly” disapprove of his job performance.
Democrats are nearly unanimous (95 percent) in disapproving of his performance, while 79 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approve of him. That marks something of a drop for Trump in his party, as it is slightly lower than 85 percent in October and 86 percent in September.
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say Trump will be judged by history as a below-average president. Going back to 1993, only George W. Bush was judged as harshly when he left office in 2009.
But the opposition to Trump is more emphatic than it was for Bush: Nearly half of all Americans (48 percent) say Trump will go down in history as a poor president, vs. 36 percent who gave Bush the worst possible rating.
The Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone from Sunday to Wednesday among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, with 75 percent reached on cellphone and 25 percent on landline. Results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, larger for results among subgroups.
The Jan. 6 insurrection
Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held a series of high-profile hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. In what was likely its final hearing, the committee issued a surprise subpoena seeking testimony from former president Donald Trump. Here’s a guide to the biggest hearing moments so far.
Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.
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.