Six Months Since January 6, Americans Still Divided on What Happened and Who to Blame

The storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6—six months ago today—was watched by millions of Americans as it unfolded across social media and live television.

Scenes so unprecedented grasped the nation's collective attention, leaving those who looked on through their screens with lasting memories and opinions of what occurred.

But while many share a common experience in viewing—and then reliving—the events through ongoing media coverage, there remains a split in views about what happened.

Emblematic of the nation's divide is the split in Congress, where lawmakers have failed to settle upon a bipartisan path to investigating what occurred despite their shared experience of fleeing for safety as the violent mob broke into the Capitol building.

A deal on a bipartisan commission passed the House but failed in the Senate. Among the congressional GOP, the event has caused fractures as some members look to downplay the events and others bemoan such efforts.

Polling has indicated this partisan split spreads out beyond Congress and into the wider public.

To understand the events, a sound place to start is determining what to call them. In Monmouth University polling, riot was the word with the most support among Americans.

Nearly three-quarters, 72 percent of those asked, said this was an appropriate way to describe the events. Split down by political affiliation, 87 percent of Democrats thought this was apt compared to 67 percent of independents and 62 percent of Republicans.

The word insurrection also gained majority backing overall, with 56 percent stating this was fair. However, this descriptor saw wider partisan splits. A firm majority of Democrats, 85 percent, backed its use compared to 33 percent of Republicans.

The majority felt it was not appropriate to call the scenes a "legitimate protest," though Republicans were most torn on that. Overall, 63 percent said this was not a fair description. Republicans were split; 47 percent branded it appropriate and 48 percent not appropriate.

The polling was conducted among 810 U.S. adults, from June 9 to 14. The margin of error for the entire sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Morning Consult noted that partisan gaps on the "culpability, motivation and severity" surrounding the incidents of January 6 have increased in the months following it.

The firm conducted polling in the immediate aftermath of the events, between January 6 and 7, and then compared these results with a further survey carried out June 18 to 20.

Overall, of all voters asked 63 percent said in January that Trump was either very or somewhat responsible for the events that led to the violence of January 6.

This dipped slightly to 61 percent in June. However, the percentage of Republican voters who thought so dropped from 41 percent to 30 percent.

Meanwhile, 52 percent of all respondents said Republicans in Congress were very or somewhat to blame in January, which dipped to 50 percent in June. But again this dropped more among GOP voters, from 34 percent to 22 percent.

In June, 41 percent of Republican voters deemed President Joe Biden to be very or somewhat responsible, with 52 percent saying the same of Democrats in Congress. Both of these percentages are higher than those for Trump or Republicans in Congress.

The question of who was involved in the riot and what they represented has also seen a partisan opinion split.

There was a Trump rally held before the storming of the Capitol, with attendees questioning the 2020 election results as they were being ratified by Congress. Many of those involved wore clothing or waved flags that bore Trump's name—but opinion on how associated they are with him is also divided when broken down by political grouping.

In January, the majority of respondents, 57 percent, said those who broke into the Capitol were representative of Trump but not the entire Republican Party. Around two-fifths, 42 percent, said they were representative of the Republican Party.

By June, opinion shifted with 47 percent saying they were representative of the GOP. While fewer Americans, 43 percent, said they were representative of Trump but not the whole Republican Party.

Among Republicans, of those polled in June 17 percent say the rioters were representative of the entire party; 25 percent said they were representative of Trump but not the wider GOP.

There were 1,986 respondents in the January polling conducted by Morning Consult/Politico and 1,995 in June. Results from the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

A point of agreement across political lines though has been a simple one: The majority have an unfavorable view of those who stormed the Capitol.

In a The Economist/YouGov poll conducted May 29 to June 1, 68 percent of those asked had an unfavorable view of those who took over the Capitol—50 percent very and 18 percent somewhat.

The majority of Democrats felt this, with 69 percent very unfavorable and 9 percent somewhat. Most Republicans also viewed them unfavorably, too. However, Republican numbers were lower, with 29 percent very unfavorable and 26 percent somewhat.

Almost one in 10 Republicans asked, 9 percent, said they felt very favorably towards those involved. The polling was conducted among 1,500 adults and results from the full sample size have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

While the polling indicates a lack of consensus, there is also divergence on whether people feel more work should be undertaken to perhaps come closer to reaching one.

In the Morning Consult/Politico polling from June, respondents were asked: "How important is it for the federal government to continue to investigate the events that occurred in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 6th?"

Most, 51 percent, said it was very important and 20 percent said it was somewhat important.

Among Trump voters, though, the most common answer was not important at all, with 30 percent opting for this response. Only a fifth said it was very important, a far lower percentage than Biden voters, of whom 76 percent said it was very important.

Since the bipartisan commission plan failed in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) launched a House select committee.

She has appointed eight members—the only Republican among them being Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), one of the 10 members of the House GOP who voted to impeach Trump in February. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will be able to nominate five members in "consultation" with Pelosi.

Newsweek has sought comment from the figures mentioned by name on the six-month anniversary of January 6 and the splits in public opinion.

january 6 capitol
Crowds at the East steps of the Capitol Building on January 6, when violent scenes saw the building stormed as lawmakers gathered to ratify Electoral College results. Six months on, there remains a divide in the nation over opinions on what happened that day. Jon Cherry/Getty Images