Partisan divisions have hardened in the year since the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, with Republicans less interested in prosecuting the rioters and Democrats firm in blaming former President Donald Trump for the violence, according to polls.
Slightly more than one-fourth of Republicans say it is very important to identify and prosecute the rioters, while 80% of Democrats feel it is important, according to the Pew Research Center. The percentage of Republicans who want the rioters prosecuted fell by nearly half from March through September last year.
Democrats in Congress are highlighting the attack as another reason to pass their stalled voting-rights bill in the Senate. They’re also raising it as an election-year issue as a select committee appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi investigates the origins of the riot.
Priorities USA Action, a liberal PAC, announced a six-figure ad buy on Wednesday targeting what it called “the dangerous policies and rhetoric promoted by political allies of Donald Trump.” The ads are aimed at Republican officials “who are continuing efforts to delegitimize the 2020 election and campaigning on the same conspiracy theories that led to the violent January 6th insurrection,” the group said.
Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, said the focus of the anniversary should be on those who died or were injured a year ago.
“I do think that there will be attempts by the Democrats obviously to gain or try to get some political advantage out of it,” he said of the anniversary. “But any reflections or remembrances ought to be about that — respecting people who were harmed and lost as a result of that.”
Most Republican lawmakers want to move on, but some say the causes of the attack still should be examined.
“Clearly, there was a stain upon our nation’s history,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican. “And we’ve got to figure out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t go wrong again.
Among Democratic voters, 95% place at least some blame on Mr. Trump for the riot, which witnessed the deaths of five people. Ashli Babbitt suffered the only violent death when a U.S. Capitol Police officer shot and killed her as she attempted to enter the Speaker’s Lobby adjacent to the House chamber.
Three other Trump supporters died during the riot, two of heart attacks and one from a drug overdose. After clashing with rioters outside the Capitol, a Capitol Police officer died of a stroke, which the medical examiner deemed a death from natural causes.
More than 150 police officers were injured.
In Pew polling, Republicans are almost evenly divided between those who believe Mr. Trump bears at least some responsibility (52%) and those who believe he is blameless (46%).
Mr. Trump canceled a planned press conference for Thursday, saying he will address the attack and related issues at a campaign-style rally in Arizona on Jan. 15.
Republicans and Democrats even differ in how they talk about the attack. Most Democrats describe those who participated in the storming of the Capitol as “insurrectionists,” “White nationalists” and “rioters,” while a majority of Republicans call them “protesters,” according to a survey by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
In a CBS News poll, 85% of Democrats called the Jan. 6 attack an attempt to overthrow the government and an insurrection, while 21% of Republicans called it an insurrection.
Republicans were more likely than Democrats in the Pew polls to express doubts about who was behind the riot. Nearly 1 in 5 Republicans who volunteered a response (17%) said the destruction wasn’t instigated by Trump supporters, instead saying it had been done by groups such as Antifa or Black Lives Matter.
And nearly one year into President Biden’s term, many voters still don’t believe that he won the 2020 election fairly — the issue at the heart of the Jan. 6 attack. An Axios-Momentive poll released Wednesday found that 55% of Americans say Mr. Biden legitimately won the presidency — a share that hasn’t changed since the same poll a year ago.
A survey by the nonpartisan watchdog group Bright Line Watch this week found that 27% of Republican voters believe Mr. Biden is the rightful presidential winner, compared with 94% of Democrats.
In a statement this week, Mr. Trump said the primary reason that demonstrators came to Washington on Jan. 6 was “the fraud of the 2020 presidential election.”
Americans also are divided on the value of the House committee’s investigation into the riot. In the Pew polling, 54% of Americans said they were either not too confident or not at all confident that the committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 riot would be fair and reasonable.
About 8 in 10 Republicans said they were either not too confident (37%) or not at all confident (40%) that the committee’s investigation would be fair and reasonable, while 63% of Democrats said they were at least somewhat confident that it would be, Pew said.