Covering the Land of Lincoln

Americans lose Faith in System

January 6th committee pre-Hutchinson hearings were not changing minds

West Long Branch, NJ – Only a little more than 1 in 3 Americans currently believe our system of government is sound, a view that has declined significantly over the past few years. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds that the House select committee to investigate January 6 has not changed many minds about what happened that day, in part because few Republicans are following the hearings. In fact, Republicans are less inclined than they were a year ago to describe the violence at the U.S. Capitol as either a riot or an insurrection. In the poll – conducted before Cassidy Hutchinson’s public testimony on June 28 – 4 in 10 Americans said former President Donald Trump was directly responsible for the incident.
Just 36% of the public describes the American system of government as basically sound. This number has declined from 55% in February 2020 and from 44% in 2021, a few weeks after the Jan. 6 attack. Just over four decades ago, 62% said the American system was sound. At the same time, the number of Americans who say our system of government is not at all sound has jumped from 10% in 1980 to 22% in 2021 and 36% in the current poll. The recent decline of faith in the American system has come at varying rates among different partisan groups. Among Republicans, the sense that our system of government is sound plummeted from 71% in early 2020 to 41% shortly after President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021, and has held fairly steady since then. The decline among independents has been more gradual – from 58% sound in 2020, to 46% in 2021, and 34% in the current poll. Democrats actually saw a brief increase in faith that the American system is sound from 2020 (34%) to 2021 (45%), but that has now dropped back to 36%.

“There’s more than just partisanship at work in declining faith in the institutional framework of American democracy. Yes, electoral outcomes play a role. Yes, the current economic crisis plays a role. But attacks on our fundamental democratic processes – and the lack of universal condemnation of those attacks by political leaders from both sides of the aisle – have taken a toll,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the public say it is appropriate to describe the incident at the U.S. Capitol as a riot, and half (50%) say it is appropriate to describe it as an insurrection. Both of these numbers, though, are down from a year ago (by 7 points for riot and by 6 points for insurrection). These negative views of Jan. 6 have held relatively steady among Democrats and independents, but have slipped significantly among Republicans. Last year, a clear majority (62%) of Republicans called the incident a riot. Now, less than half (45%) do. Similarly, a third (33%) of Republicans in June 2021 said it was appropriate to describe the incident as an insurrection, but only 13% say the same today.
By comparison, the number of Americans who say it is appropriate to describe the U.S. Capitol incident as a legitimate protest has remained stable over the past year (34% now compared with 33% in June 2021). However, the number of Republicans who see this incident as a legitimate protest has actually risen by 14 points to 61%, at the same time this view has declined among independents (down 6 points to 33%) and remained stable among Democrats (14%).
“Some Republicans who were initially appalled have now recast the events of Jan. 6 in a less negative light. It’s not clear the House committee hearings are having any impact in correcting this view, in large part because Republicans simply aren’t watching,” said Murray.
While nearly half (45%) of Democrats say they have been following the House select committee hearings a lot, just 16% of independents and 10% of Republicans say the same. In fact, a majority (52%) of Republicans and 4 in 10 independents (41%) say they have not been following the hearings at all. [Note: the poll was conducted before the Cassidy Hutchinson testimony on June 28.]
When it comes to conducting a fair investigation, 34% of the public trusts the House committee a lot, 22% trust it a little, and 41% do not trust it at all. The vast majority of Republicans do not have any trust in the committee regardless of whether they have been following the hearings (65%) or not (78%).
Overall, just 6% of all Americans say the recent committee hearings have changed their mind about what happened at the Capitol or who was responsible for Jan. 6. Among Republicans who have been following the hearings, just 1 in 10 – representing 5% of all Republicans – say they have changed their opinion about the incident. In a follow-up question, some of these Republicans say that they learned about the pressure Trump was exerting or that election fraud claims were spurious. However, others claim they have “learned” that “police officers were not killed in that protest,” or that “the Democrats were highly involved as well as the F.B.I.”
Currently, 29% of Americans believe Biden won the presidential election only because of voter fraud. In prior polls since November 2020, that number held steady at 32%. The 3-point difference in the current poll is just as likely to be the product of sampling variance as it is any real chipping away at this unsupported belief.
“The committee is preaching to the choir right now. There is little evidence these hearings are having any direct impact on the Republican base. The committee’s best hope is that the mounting evidence makes it untenable for key GOP leaders to continue to stay silent. So far, though, it seems fear of political retribution from Trump voters continues to be the overriding concern,” said Murray.
Prior to the June 28 hearing, over 4 in 10 (42%) Americans saw Trump as being directly responsible for the U.S. Capitol incident, 25% said he encouraged those involved but was not directly responsible for their actions, and 30% said he did nothing wrong regarding Jan. 6. While 83% of Democrats thought Trump was directly responsible, 59% of Republicans said he did nothing wrong. Two-thirds (66%) of the public say that members of Congress who assisted the attack’s planners should be removed from office. However, only 36% of Republicans feel that way.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from June 23 to 27, 2022 with 978 adults in the United States. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

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