January 6: One year later, Americans still view the Capitol takeover with dismay

January 05, 2022, 8:25 PM UTC

One year since the attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, little has changed about American opinion about Jan. 6, 2021, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, which revisited many questions about the Capitol takeover from a survey a year ago.

Few Americans approve of the takeover itself, despite a slight increase in support since a year ago. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all overwhelmingly disapprove.

There is more support for the protest that preceded the attack: 37% today approve of the protest, similar to a year ago. But 51% do not. Barely one in ten Americans describe January 6, 2021 as a great or good day for the country, about the same as a year earlier. More than seven in ten call it bad or tragic. Most Republicans agree the day was tragic or bad (60%, down from 67% a year earlier), though a quarter aren’t sure how to describe the day.

When asked to recall their thoughts and feelings on Jan. 6, 2021, in an open-ended question, YouGov members who responded frequently mentioned sadness, disappointment, anger, and disbelief. Many people also reported thinking or feeling "nothing" on that day. The Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack was a major event for Americans, 61% of whom remember where they were when they first heard about it. Democrats (76%) were more likely than Republicans (52%) to recall where they were when first hearing about the attack.

And two-thirds of Americans say they watched at least some of the live coverage of the Capitol attack. Half of Democrats said they watched “a lot” of live coverage, compared to only 21% of Republicans. 

Do Americans blame then President Donald Trump for what happened at the Capitol? That depends. Just about as many say Trump urged his supporters to engage in violence that day as say he did not, little changed from a year ago. About half of Americans (51%) say Trump deserves at least some of the blame for the event, just as they said a year ago; 39% say he deserves a little blame or none. Republicans were more likely to attribute responsibility to Trump immediately after the day than they do now (25% then, 15% now).

About half of Americans say members of Congress were involved in the attack on their place of work. Two-thirds of Democrats (66%) and 44% of Republicans say some members of Congress were involved in the takeover. Just 19% say no members were involved.

What now? The current Congressional investigation into the events of a year ago is, like the events of that day, seen through partisan eyes: Most Democrats (69%) view it as a serious attempt to find out what really happened, while most Republicans (64%) call it a politically motivated attempt to embarrass President Trump.

By 52% to 31%, Americans would prefer avoiding the entire state-by-state certification process that the insurrectionists attacked last January 6 by using the national popular vote to elect presidents, not the Electoral College. Republicans, whose presidential candidates won the 2000 and 2016 elections while losing the popular vote, favor keeping the Electoral College by 54% to 33%.

January 6

— Taylor Orth contributed to this article.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between January 2 and January 4, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty