Impact of Capitol probe on US public opinion revealed – poll
More than a year of investigation by a congressional committee and nine televised hearings – packaged expertly by a former ABC News executive – have had essentially zero impact on public opinion about the January 6 US Capitol riot, a new poll has revealed.
The Monmouth University poll, released on Tuesday, showed that the Democrat-led House committee had failed in its efforts to convince voters that former President Donald Trump was responsible for the Capitol breach. About 38% of Americans believe Trump was “directly responsible,” down from 42% before the televised hearings, the survey found.
“The sensational revelations during the hearings do not seem to have moved the public opinion needle on Trump’s culpability for either the riot or his spurious election fraud claims,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Many observers didn’t buy Murray’s argument that the hearings yielded “sensational revelations.” Just 23% of Americans paid “a lot of attention” to the hearings, unchanged from before they aired, the poll showed. Opinions were similarly static on whether President Joe Biden won the 2020 election due to voter fraud (29%, unchanged from before the hearings) and whether the Capitol breach was a riot (64%, down from 65%).
Around 52% of respondents said the incident could correctly be described as an “insurrection,” up from 50% before the hearings, while 35% said it was a “legitimate protest,” up from 34%. Just 8% said the hearings changed their views, up from 6%.
About 40% of Americans, including more than 80% of Republicans, have a favorable view of Trump, virtually unchanged from November 2020 levels, the poll found. At the other end of the spectrum, 41% of Americans believe Trump should be charged with crimes related to the Capitol riot, while 35% think such a prosecution would destabilize the US political system.
“When we released our June poll, I said the committee was preaching to the choir,” Murray said. “These current results suggest they haven’t recruited any new singers since then.”
The poll found that 42% of Americans believe the US political system is “basically sound,” down from 55% in February 2020.
The House committee hired former ABC News executive James Goldston to help package its hearings for a primetime television audience. Democrats have touted the riot as a racially motivated insurrection and blamed Trump for inciting election-fraud protesters to block the peaceful transfer of power. Critics, such as Representative Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania), have called the hearings a Soviet-style “show trial.”