Dangerously, the base’s reaction to January 6 are part of a larger worldview about the 2020 election and its aftermath, all steeped in mistruths in an effort to protect Trump’s legacy.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll
from late March found that an astounding 55% of Republicans agreed that the January 6 riots were led by left-wing protesters trying to make the former President look bad. Just 30% of Republicans disagreed with this statement.
What arguably makes this stat even worse is that people don’t believe or are choosing to ignore their own eyes. There is video literally showing rioters
pumping up Trump and denouncing now President Joe Biden and Democrats.
There is no real proof that liberals were behind the insurrection. It’s a lie by some conservatives that was made up to excuse the violent actions of Trump supporters that day.
Republicans are also trying to perform some mind jujitsu by trying to separate out the insurrection from the larger January 6 protests. While it is true that some January 6 protesters were not rioters, many of them were.
Yet 51% of Republicans believe that the protesters were mostly peaceful and law-abiding. Put it together, a majority of Republicans think that the protesters were mostly peaceful, and a majority think those who rioted at the US Capitol were put up to it by left-wing agitators.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that many Republicans are able to believe two things that seem to be in paradox with each other.
Republicans have believed unbelievable things about the election and its aftermath for more than half a year now.
The 51% and 55% are part of a larger package of lies propagated since the election. The majority who have false thoughts
about January 6 is similar to the percentage of Republicans who believe, falsely, that President Joe Biden didn’t legitimately earn enough votes to beat Trump in the election.
These statistics being so similar makes a lot of sense. When you believe something ridiculous, it’s not the toughest jump to believe something else ridiculous on the same topic.
Moreover, if you are wrongly of the belief that the election was somehow stolen, you might too be OK with a riot to protest those results.
We shouldn’t lose sight of how crazily high these stats are. They’re not normal, even in our deeply partisan age.
Biden clearly won the election with room to spare. In similar elections outcomes since 2004 (competitive but not too close), only about 10% to 15% of the losing candidate’s backers had no confidence that the votes were counted fairly. Following this past election, it’s around 50 points higher than that.
The difference between those elections and this one seems pretty obvious and is the same as the linking factor between the reaction to the 2020 election and the events of January 6: Trump.
Most Americans seem to recognize that link. A clear majority, 55%, told Quinnipiac University
back in February that the riots wouldn’t have happened if Trump had not spent months lying about how the 2020 election was stolen. Not surprisingly, 59% of Republicans think the riots still would have happened without Trump saying anything about the election’s legitimacy.
Many Republicans can’t believe anything bad about Trump. Most, 68%, said that Trump did everything he could to stop the events of January 6. Just 25% of Americans overall believe that.
Trump still has this almost hypnotic spell over most Republicans. This has led him to not only leading in the 2024 Republican primary polls, but puts him in the strongest polling position
of any former President who could run for another term.
And because so many Republicans are willing to believe so many lies that make Trump look good, it’s a big reason you should take his polling advantage seriously.