More Americans say Trump urged violence on January 6, 2021 than say he didn't

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
Carl BialikU.S. Politics Editor and Vice President of Data Science
July 28, 2023, 7:07 PM GMT+0

The Department of Justice recently notified Donald Trump that he is a target of a criminal probe into the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. New polling from the Economist/YouGov finds that few Americans now say they approve of Trump supporters who attempted to take over the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Just 14% of Americans say they strongly or somewhat approve, down 10 percentage points since early May. Republican approval has dropped 11 points, to 25%.

Partisan differences are even greater when it comes to evaluating Trump’s role in the events of January 6, 2021. By 46% to 37%, Americans believe the then-president urged his supporters to engage in violence that day. Those figures are 78% and 8% among Democrats, and 9% and 77% among Republicans.

Americans are closely divided on whether or not Trump should be charged with a crime in connection with the events of January 6: 44% say he should be and 41% say he should not be. Three in four Democrats (76%) say yes to charging Trump while just 7% say no; among Republicans, those figures are 7% and 86%.

A majority (53%) thinks Trump really believes he won the 2020 election, including 37% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans.

There are some — though nowhere near a majority — who don't expect a peaceful transfer of power after the 2024 election. One in three Americans (33%) say it is very or somewhat likely that there will be a violent attempt to stop congressional proceedings if President Joe Biden is re-elected. Fewer (18%) expect that to happen if Biden is not re-elected. Democrats are more likely to expect such a violent attempt in the event of a Biden re-election than if Biden is not re-elected; the reverse is true for Republicans.

Looking ahead to the 2024 election, Trump remains Republicans’ top choice for the GOP presidential nomination: This week he leads Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by 55% to 18% among Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents. Trump’s 37-percentage-point lead is up from 29 points two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents whose top choice was Trump named DeSantis as their second choice. This week, only 38% do.

In the past two weeks, two Republican candidates have increased their popularity as second choices: businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and U.S. Senator Tim Scott. Former Vice President Mike Pence and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley trail them in total first- and second-choice support, with every other candidate getting negligible support.

In order to participate in the first Republican debate, scheduled for August 23, candidates must meet all of the following criteria: receive at least 1% support in polls, have at least 40,000 unique donors, and pledge to support the eventual nominee. Three in four Republicans (75%) say the minimum polling level should be required and a majority (54%) support requiring the loyalty pledge. But by 56% to 44%, Republicans oppose requiring a minimum number of donors.

Trump has not said whether he would support the eventual GOP nominee if he were to lose the nomination, but by 54% to 46%, people who have him as their first choice in the primary favor the loyalty-pledge requirement.

Most Republicans say they will watch the August 23 debate: 61% say they definitely or probably will; 25% say they definitely or probably won’t.

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on July 22 - 25, 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 November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty