A small but growing share of Americans approve of the people who took over the Capitol on January 6

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
March 16, 2023, 9:12 PM GMT+0

Disputes over the 2020 election have made headlines again lately, particularly in relation to Fox News. Recently, private Fox News messages were released in a lawsuit against the network by Dominion, a voting machine company, which alleges Fox caused “severe damage” by promoting conspiracy theories about the results of the 2020 election. In addition, Fox News host Tucker Carlson recently released security video from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — provided exclusively to him by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — to depict the takeover as a peaceful gathering.

Since 2021, the Economist/YouGov poll has tracked opinions on the aftermath of the election, including Americans' views on the January 6 Capitol takeover. Today, one-third of Americans (34%) say the people involved in the Capitol takeover were participating in “legitimate political discourse,” while roughly half (48%) say they were participating in “a violent insurrection.” A majority of Republicans (53%) describe the participation in the takeover as legitimate political discourse, just as a majority did a year ago.

There has been some change in Americans' approval of Donald Trump supporters taking over the Capitol building. In the weeks following the attack, only around one in 10 Americans at least somewhat approved of those involved. Now, around twice as many do. This shift has taken place among both Republicans and Democrats: 27% and 19% of each group, respectively, approve of the Trump supporters.

While 52% of Americans hold Trump at least somewhat responsible for what happened on January 6, just 37% of Republicans do. Republicans were less likely right after the attack than they are now to blame Trump for what happened: Then, 22% of Republicans said he had at least some responsibility for the takeover, 15 percentage points fewer than say so today.

How much responsibility does Trump have for the Capitol takeover? Among Democrats, there has been a decline in the share who say Trump bears "a lot" of responsibility for the attack: Now, 62% do, 13 points fewer than did right after it occurred. Opinions of Republicans on this topic, and Americans overall, have changed little.

As for McCarthy giving Carlson exclusive access to Capitol security footage of the January 6 attack, Americans are divided: 42% strongly or somewhat approve, 38% disapprove. More than six in 10 Republicans approve, compared with only 30% of Democrats.

Republicans have generally positive views of Carlson: 65% have a very or somewhat favorable opinion of him, while just 16% have a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion of him.

But Republicans have mixed views of Carlson's boss, Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch. About as many Republicans have an unfavorable view of Murdoch (32%) as have a favorable one (30%).

How much do Americans trust Fox News? Among Americans overall, 36% say Fox is trustworthy or very trustworthy, while 37% say it is untrustworthy or very untrustworthy. Most Republicans trust Fox; most Democrats and Independents do not. Republicans who identify as "MAGA Republicans" are more likely to trust Fox than than those who don't.

— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on March 11 - 14, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty Images (Jon Cherry)