Thirty-Nine Percent of Republicans Say They'd Support Americans Using Political Violence

Nearly four in 10 Republicans believe that political violence may be necessary if elected leaders fail to act, new polling results show.

Hundreds of former President Donald Trump's supporters violently attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 after Trump said they needed to "fight like hell" to keep him in power. The ex-president and many of his GOP allies had pushed the baseless conspiracy theory that President Joe Biden won the election through widespread voter fraud, which many of his supporters believed.

While some Republican leaders have attempted to distance themselves from the pro-Trump rioters and the former president, polls suggest the GOP base may be more closely aligned with this fringe of the party than they admit.

In the new survey by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), 39 percent of GOP voters said they agreed with this statement: "If elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions." However, the majority (60 percent) of Republicans said they opposed the idea.

Pro-Trump riot at U.S. Capitol
Supporters of then-President Donald Trump clash with police and security forces as the mob storms the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Brent Stirton/Getty

Smaller numbers of Democrats and independents also said they believed violence could be necessary. Among Democratic voters, 17 percent agreed with the sentence, while 31 percent of independent voters did as well.

Daniel Cox, director of the AEI, described the findings of his institute's survey as "really dramatic" in an interview with NPR. "I think any time you have a significant number of the public saying use of force can be justified in our political system, that's pretty scary," he said.

The survey also showed that half of Republicans still believe incorrectly that Antifa was responsible for the violence at the Capitol, not Trump supporters. While 50 percent of Republicans said Antifa was behind the attack—a belief that is contradicted by all evidence and the statements of those arrested in the aftermath—just 15 percent of GOP voters said they believe Trump encouraged the attack.

More than a dozen of the nearly 200 people charged in the Capitol assault have blamed Trump directly for their actions. They have said they were following the president's commands and believed they were fighting to protect the U.S. An attorney representing Dominic Pezzola, an alleged member of the Proud Boys charged with involvement in the riot, described his client as "one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President's deception" in a Wednesday court filing.

Another recent poll, by CBS News/YouGov, showed that most Republicans appear to be more loyal to Trump than they are to the GOP. The survey found that 70 percent of Republicans would join or consider joining a new political party if Trump formed one. Slightly more (71 percent) of Republicans said that GOP lawmakers voting to impeach or convict Trump for helping to incite the insurrection are "disloyal."