Most voters say the events at the US Capitol are a threat to democracy

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
Jamie BallardData Journalist
Linley SandersSenior Data Journalist
January 07, 2021, 12:20 AM UTC

Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol earlier this afternoon to protest lawmakers certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. According to initial reports, one person was shot and killed and at least one explosive device was found in the area.  

A YouGov Direct poll of 1,397 registered voters who had heard about the event finds that most (62%) voters perceive these actions as a threat to democracy. Democrats (93%) overwhelmingly see it this way, while most (55%) Independents also agree. Among Republicans, however, only a quarter (27%) think this should be considered a threat to democracy, with two-thirds (68%) saying otherwise.  

In fact, many Republicans (45%) actively support the actions of those at the Capitol, although as many expressed their opposition (43%). 

Among all voters, almost two-thirds (63%) say that they “strongly” oppose the actions taken by President Trump’s supporters, with another 8% say they “somewhat” oppose what has happened.  

Overall, one in five voters (21%) say they support the goings-on at the Capitol. Those who believe that voter fraud took place and affected the election outcome are especially likely to feel that today’s events were justified, at 56%. 

The partisan difference in support could be down to differing perceptions of the nature of the protests. While 59% of voters who are aware of the events at the Capitol perceive them as being more violent than more peaceful (28%), the opposite is true of Republicans. By 58% to 22%, Republicans see the goings on as more peaceful than more violent.

Who is responsible for what is happening at the Capitol? 

Republican Senator Mitt Romney laid the blame for the breach squarely at President Trump’s feet, saying “This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection”

Most voters agree. A majority (55%) say that President Trump is “a great deal to blame” for the actions of those who charged the Capitol, with another 11% saying he is “somewhat to blame”. About four in ten (42%) also say that the Congressional Republicans who said that they would vote against certifying the election results are “a great deal to blame”, and another 20% think they are “somewhat to blame”. 

Far fewer voters think President-elect Joe Biden is a great deal (17%) or somewhat (9%) to blame. That being said, Biden is the biggest culprit in the eyes of Republicans, at 52%, compared to 28% for Donald Trump and 26% for the Congressional Republicans who opposed certification of the election results. 

Democratic lawmakers including Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar have called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Trump from office in light of today’s events.  

Half (50%) of voters agree, saying they think it would be appropriate for Donald Trump to be removed from office immediately because of what happened today. Another 42% believe that such an action would be inappropriate. Republicans (85%) are especially likely to say they believe this would be inappropriate.  

Are those in the Capitol building extremists, terrorists or patriots?  

Those on both sides of the dispute are at odds in their descriptions of those currently occupying the US Capitol. NPR tweeted guidance that they would not be referring to them as “protestors”, but rather as “pro-Trump extremists”, and what they are doing as “insurrection”. (In this they are mirroring Romney’s assessment of the situation). 

About half (52%) of voters agree with the “extremist” label, the most commonly selected of all the terms we put to respondents. Nearly as many (49%) think “domestic terrorists” is an appropriate title, and 41% consider them “criminals.”  

The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, tweeted earlier in the day referring to those at the Capitol as “patriots”. The tweet has since been deleted. Only about one in seven (15%) agreed with the “patriot” label, although this rises to 30% of Republicans and 40% among those who think there was enough fraud at the election last year to change the outcome. 

 See topline and table results.  

Methodology: YouGov polled 1,448 registered voters, including 1,397 who were aware of the events at the Capitol. The survey was conducted on January 6, 2021 between 5:17 p.m. and 5:42 p.m. Eastern time. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. Data is weighted on age, gender, education level, political affiliation and ethnicity to be nationally representative of adults in the United States. The margin of error is approximately 3.3% for the overall sample.  

Image: Getty