One week later, what do Americans make of the Capitol attack?

January 13, 2021, 7:05 PM UTC

Last week’s takeover of the Capitol Building by pro-Trump supporters was seen as either a bad (30%) or tragic day (49%) for the country in the latest Economist/YouGov poll. Just one in 11 (9%) thought it was a good (7%) or even great day (2%) for the United States.

The overwhelming majority of Republicans — like the rest of the nation — consider January 6 a bad (40%) or tragic day (27%) for America.   

The most common emotion that Americans felt about the day was disappointment about everything that happened. Given a list of possible responses, and the ability to choose as many as they liked, 62% of respondents said they were disappointed. Half said they were angry (51%) or ashamed (50%), with Democrats being more likely than the country overall to feel that way (74% angry, 66% ashamed). 

Democrats (21%) were about less likely than Republicans (36%) to report being surprised.  

Americans haven’t been this likely to think the country is on the wrong track since 2011 

The Capitol takeover didn’t just make Americans feel disappointed. It also affected the image of the United States, both at home and throughout the world. Two-thirds of Americans (68%) think the US will lose respect from the world because of the takeover. Two-thirds (67%) believe that the event divided Americans even further (most also believe the country already had been divided by the election).  

It also didn’t help the public’s assessment of America’s future. Only 14% believe the country is headed in the right direction, the lowest percentage recorded during the Trump Administration, and the lowest since the summer of 2011. Nearly three-quarters (74%) now describe the country as on the wrong track.   

Republicans and Democrats agree about the state of the country, an unusual situation, as those from the party of the incumbent president are usually more positive. Three-quarters of Democrats (75%) and Republicans (74%) currently say that the country is off on the wrong track. 

Concern about the impact of the takeover is bipartisan, but some feelings about the event itself are not. Americans overwhelmingly support the right to protest against what people see as unjust political practices (74%), but they respond as partisans when asked specifically about last week’s protests of the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. Seven in 10 Republicans (71%) strongly or somewhat approve of Trump supporters protesting the certification of Joe Biden winning the Electoral College, compared to 16% of Democrats.

However, there is little support for the takeover of the US Capitol: only 9% approve of the takeover, 81% do not. Republicans are also opposed: 74% of them disapprove of the takeover, 16% approve. Among the small group of Americans who do approve of the Capitol takeover, (58%) have a favorable opinion of QAnon; 71% believe there was “a lot” of fraud in the presidential election, and 81% believe Trump actually won. Voters in the group overwhelmingly chose to re-elect President Trump, but nearly as many didn’t vote at all as voted for the President.

Two thirds of Republicans think Antifa was involved in the takeover of the Capitol building 

Who were the people who took over the Capitol? Their image with the public is very dependent on what party a person identifies with. Among Republicans, two in three (69%) say Antifa was involved in the Capitol takeover, and three-quarters of Republicans (77%) say those individuals didn’t represent most Trump supporters. As many Republicans claim they were mostly peaceful (42%) as think they were mostly violent (35%).   

Democrats have very different views. Two-thirds of Democrats (65%) believe those who took over the Capitol do represent most Trump supporters, and 84% see the protestors as mostly violent. Only 15% of Democrats say Antifa was involved. 

As for President Trump, a majority of Republicans (53%) absolve him of any responsibility for the takeover. Democrats (87%) and Independents (53%) say he has a lot or some responsibility.  When it comes to the violence that occurred in the Capitol, the country is divided on whether or not the President urged his supporters to engage in violence in a speech immediately prior to the attack, in which he said, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” 

When it comes to whether or not President Trump did incite the violence, 45% say he did while 37% say he did not. 

Related: Voters say Congress should press ahead with second Trump impeachment attempt

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll 

MethodologyThe Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between January 10 - 12, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.6% for the overall sample.      

 Image: Getty