6 in 10 Republicans Don't Believe Jan. 6 Capitol Attack Was Very Violent, Poll Finds

About 4 in 10 Republicans say the January 6, 2021, Capital riot was very or extremely violent, according to a new poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. About 3 in 10 Republicans say the riot was somewhat violent, while another 3 in 10 percent say it was nonviolent.

"My understanding was that a lot of it was pretty peaceful," Paul Bender of Cleveland said in an interview after taking the poll. "I've seen some video of the people just like marching in through a velvet rope."

These findings directly contrast what many on-ground witnesses to the riots, including Capitol police officers, have reported. One police officer described the violence as "medieval," while another compared the riot to a "trip to hell."

More than 100 law enforcement personnel were injured and a handful took their own lives in the aftermath. About 9 in 10 Democrats say the riot was very or extremely violent, along with about two-thirds of Americans.

The AP-NORC poll was taken by 1,089 adults from December 2 to December 7. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Jan 6 Violence
Protesters supporting U.S. President Donald Trump break into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. About 3 in 10 Republicans say the riot was nonviolent or somewhat violent, according to a new poll. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who blame former President Donald Trump for the riot has grown slightly over the past year, with 57 percent saying he bears significant responsibility for what took place. In an AP-NORC poll taken in the days after the attack, 50 percent said that.

The uptick is seen among Republicans as well, even as relatively few think Trump bears significant responsibility. Twenty-two percent say that now, up from 11 percent last year. Sixty percent say he had little to no responsibility.

"I don't believe that he actively was like promoting people to do anything other than a peaceful protest," said Bender, 53. "However, once things got out of hand, I think that it would have been appropriate for him to have reacted sooner, whether that was a statement or going on the radio or TV or whatever."

The insurrection was the closing act of Trump's desperate effort to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden. After Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud were soundly rejected in the courts, he shifted his focus to the Electoral College certification on January 6, publicly pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to stop Congress from naming Biden the winner. Pence did not have that power under the law, as the vice president's function is largely ceremonial.

Trump promoted the January 6 rally that preceded the attack, predicting it would be "wild," and in a speech that day urged his supporters to "fight like hell" as Congress convened to certify the election results. The attack halted that process for hours as rioters occupied the building.

Still, while few Republicans blame Trump, Republicans and Democrats alike overwhelmingly say that the individual rioters had a great deal or quite a bit of responsibility for their actions during the riot.

"I think there were strong supporters of President Trump that were there, but I think the people that caused the attacks might not have been true Trump supporters," said Mary Beth Bell of Jacksonville, Florida. "Because I know a lot of Trump supporters, and they see what happened on January 6 as disgusting as I do."

About 7 in 10 Americans also say a House select committee should continue its investigation of the attack, while about 3 in 10 say it should not.

Robert Spry, a Democrat in Kingman, Arizona, said the congressional investigation is crucial for getting at the truth.

"We need a comprehensive report of that day. It has got to come to light what those people did to police and to that building," Spry said.

The 63-year-old, who used to vote Republican but now considers himself a conservative Democrat, said the protest-turned-attack appeared chaotic at first, but the committee's findings are making it "more and more clear that it was planned in advance."

Forty-one percent of Republicans agree with Spry that Congress should continue to investigate, while 58 percent say it should not.

Bell said a federal investigation into what she saw as "a terrorist attack" is appropriate, but she objects to the way the nine-member panel has been conducting the investigation since July of last year.

"They're not listening to all the information. I feel like it's one-sided more or less than trying to investigate everything," she said of the committee, composed of seven Democrats and two Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose all the members of the committee after rejecting the choices of House GOP leadership.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democratic chairman of the committee, said it's important for Americans to know that Democrats first tried to create a bipartisan commission with an equal number of members from each party. But Republicans in the Senate blocked it from passage.

"Only because Republican leadership failed this country did Speaker Pelosi have to step up and do what's in the best interest of the country to make sure that we produce a committee that looks into the facts and circumstances of Jan. 6," Thompson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Enforcement Jan 6
Law enforcement officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. The findings from a new AP-NORC poll contrast firsthand accounts from police officers who say that the riot was comparable to a "trip to hell." Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images