Biden, Capitol assault, Capitol riots, CNN, Democrats, Donald Trump, election 2022, election 2024, Im-Politic, January 6, January 6 committee, midterm elections, midterms 2022, Pew Research Center, RealClearPolitics.com, Republicans
Some compelling evidence emerged this past week that if the Democratic Party thinks it’s going to prevent major losses in this year’s Congressional elections mainly by beating the Capitol riot and the Donald Trump-as-deadly-danger-to-American-democracy drums, it needs a major reality check. For new polls are showing that the public is increasingly moving on from January 6th, and is less and less critical of the former President’s role.
The most eye-opening survey results came out on Tuesday from the Pew Research Center. They showed that, since the immediate aftermath of the attack, 52 percent of the country’s adults assigned Trump “a lot of responsibility” for the riot, 23 percent said he deserved “some” responsibility, and 24 percent saw him as blameless. But of those responding to the same question in the middle of last month, only 43 percent agreed with “a lot,” 24 percent agreed with “some,” and 32 percent agreed with “none at all.”
Predictably, a big partisan split emerged. But changes in Trump’s favor were evident even among adults calling themselves Democrats and those avowedly leaning Democratic. Last year, 81 percent told Pew that Trump bore “a lot” of blame for the riot, 14 percent answered “some” blame, and just five percent let him off the hook. This year, the results were 70 percent, 17 percent, and 12 percent, respectively.
A CNN-co-sponsored poll also taken last month and released Thursday found somewhat similar results in response to a somewhat different question. Last January, 75 percent of the adult respondents surveyed called the Capitol attack a “crisis” or “major problem” for American democracy, with 36 percent choosing “crisis.” Last month, the comparable overall figure was 65 percent, with 28 percent calling the riot a “crisis.”
These two surveys also warn Democrats not to expect the House of Representative’s January 6th committee to be a political game changer. The Pew poll reports that, since last September, the share of U.S. adults who have heard a lot about the committee has more than doubled. But it’s still just 26 percent. And only 29 percent of Democrats say they’ve been tuned in to this extent.
Meanwhile, according to Pew, only 44 percent of American adults overall are “very” or “somewhat” confident that the committee’s investigation of the riot is “fair and reasonable.” Fifty-four percent are “not too” or “not at all” confident.
CNN’s results were more favorable to the committee: Forty-four percent of its respondents viewed it as “a fair attempt to determine what happened” and just 36 percent dismissed it as a “one-sided effort to blame Donald Trump.” (Twenty percent “hadn’t heard enough to say.”) But no earlier figures were presented to enable judging any trend over time.
But maybe the most revealing poll results pointing to a big fading of January 6th’s political effects (totally contrary to what yours truly predicted) come from RealClearPolitics.com. Since August, the site has tracked polls that have asked the public whether they would back Trump or President Biden if they ran against each other in the 2024 presidential election. Of the 12 surveys monitored, Trump has won in ten and one produced a tie.
At least as revealing: In five of these polls (including two of the last three), the “Trump vote” topped his official 46.86 percent share of the 2020 vote.
As I’ve written previously, this could all change if the House committee or the press produce some genuinely blockbuster findings, or if Trump is perceived to be going unprecedentedly far off the rails or if most of the myriad challenges and opportunities sure to face America over the next few months break the Democrats’ way. And I certainly don’t rule out Republicans screwing up in some disastrous way between now and November.
But so far, it looks very much like their “All January 6th” approach has been a bad bet for Democrats. At the same time, given Mr. Biden’s record and deep unpopularity, maybe it’s still the best bet they’ve got.