Are Americans Over January 6?

A new poll offers mixed results.

The press release for a new Morning Consult poll claims that “The Republican Party’s Image Has Recovered From the Fallout of Jan. 6.” That strikes me as a very strained reading of said poll.

Senior reporter Eli Yokley tells us that,

Former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election — culminating in the deadly riot that sought to block Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6 — marred voters’ views on the state of the GOP and prompted questions about whether it could recover in the future.

A year later, Morning Consult trend data paints a clear picture: It has. There is no lasting stain on the Republican brand, and though most voters continue to blame Trump for the events as a congressional probe moves through his orbit and homes in on him, they do not appear ready to punish Republicans for the attack on American democracy.

Here’s the first piece of evidence:

From this, Yokley surmises,

According to the latest data, gathered Dec. 18-20 among 2,000 registered voters ahead of the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack, 34 percent say the Republican Party is headed in the right direction, matching voter optimism toward the Democratic Party’s own tack. Though improvement was observed across the partisan aisle, it was most notable among Republicans, 65 percent of whom say their party is headed in the right direction — up 14 percentage points since January 2021.

First off, I’d say that the movement is negligible, especially when factoring in sampling error. (For the poll overall, it’s 2%. It’s higher for each sub-group.) Second, “going in the right direction” means different things to different people. Indeed, it almost certainly means opposite things to hard-core Democrats and Republicans.

Still, Yokley contends,

More voters have reason to believe that the GOP is on the right track given the conventional wisdom supporting their chances for midterm election victories, and as America gets further away from the Capitol attack, some of the improvements reflect voters’ reactions to a year of full Democratic control of Washington and displeasure with Biden.

Since the weekend after the Capitol attack, for example, Trump has seen his unfavorability rating drop from 63 percent to 51 percent in a Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted Dec. 18-20. That poll found 44 percent of voters hold favorable views of the former president, higher than earlier in the year and similar to Biden’s own standing.

Now, I must admit, that finding seems weird to me. But, as always, it’s just a reminder of something OTBers know intellectually but constantly forget intuitively: the vast majority of Americans simply don’t spend a lot of time thinking and reading about politics. If you’re not paying attention, Trump is just some guy who used to be President a long time ago and has disappeared.

Beyond that, to the extent the likelihood of the GOP doing what one would expect historically—gaining seats in the midterms—is influencing public perception that it’s “going in the right direction,” the question itself is unhelpful.

Additionally, Yokley notes,

But there’s another reason explaining the lack of a Jan. 6 stain on the GOP’s record: Democrats are simply far more likely than other voters to think of the Capitol attack as a seismic event.

His evidence:

He summarizes,

Roughly 7 in 10 Democratic voters said the events of Jan. 6 had a “major impact” on their worldview, compared with about a quarter of Republicans and just over a third of independents.

I’m honestly not even sure what that’s supposed to mean. I found the rioting shocking and the failure of the Republican establishment to stand up to it outrageous. But I don’t know that it changed my worldview. If anything, it reinforced my decision to bolt from the party in 2016 and vote for the opposition.

Regardless, Yokley gleans this:

Trump’s improved popularity, the modest declines among those who blame him and his allies in Congress for the Jan. 6 attack, and the recovering sentiment about the state of the Republican Party suggest the insurrection may be far from most voters’ minds heading into the midterms.

Indeed, nearly half of voters (47 percent), including a similar share of independents, said they don’t expect the events of last January to have any impact on their votes in November, even though two-thirds of voters say it’s important for the federal government to investigate Jan. 6 and three-fifths support the idea of a congressional commission.

So, again, this seems to conflate a lot of things. Self-identified Democrats and Republicans are going to vote for their party’s candidates absent something extraordinary (a particularly charismatic celebrity candidate, the nomination of a pedophile, etc.). If it’s extraordinary enough, say the nomination of a Donald Trump, people may stop identifying with their former party.

While I would likely self-identify as an Independent on this, I’m effectively a Democrat in that it’s now my going-in position. And, no, the Jan. 6 riot is unlikely to be top of mind in my midterm vote unless the Republicans nominate a candidate who was directly involved or who advocates for more of the same. The riot is baked in at this point, not a separate decision factor.

As to the commission:

Yokley observes,

Since July, the share of voters who say they approve of the select committee has fallen 7 points to 46 percent, fueled by declining support among Democrats, independents and Republicans, all of whom have become more likely to express uncertainty about an investigation that has often failed to capture their attention on a large scale. And as the House panel continues to pursue documents and witness testimony, roughly 2 in 5 Democrats and independents say its investigation is moving too slowly.

Overall, the trends signal a weariness verging on disinterest in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack one year later, as the midterm elections inch closer and Republicans at all levels of government continue to telegraph their intent to challenge the legitimacy of future electoral contests.

The disapproval numbers have held steady, well within the margin of sampling error. And, frankly, the approval numbers haven’t moved all that much, either: Democrats still overwhelmingly support it, Republicans still overwhelmingly oppose it, and Independents are still Meh. To the extent the survey differences are capturing meaningful shifts in opinion, they’re both slight and likely to be a function of the drip-drip-drip nature of them thus far producing little in the way of new insights. Then again, they’re not over.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This American isn’t.

  2. Joe says:

    I find it interesting that nearly every event mentioned “changed the world view” of more Democrats than Republicans or Independents, usually significantly more Democrats.

  3. CSK says:

    And just in case you are over it, Donald Trump intends to remind you of it on January 6, 2022, at his “press conference” at Mar-a-Lago.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    They tried to take over the Government and install an un-elected leader.
    And people are over it?
    Shame on Democrats for allowing that to happen – wherever he is friggin’ Jenos is still yelling BENGHAZI!!!
    I’m not over it, and won’t be for a long time.
    Arresting a ringleader would go a long way towards reminding people what happened.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    While politically interested citizens continue to have 1/6 high on their list of interests, for most dealing with the struggles of day-to-day life and Covid are of far greater importance. As the election approaches we can expect two things, there will be some type of status report from the 1/6 congressional investigation and TFG will make the election about him. Those will focus voters back on what happened a year ago.

  6. Tony W says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: We don’t arrest or prosecute ringleaders in this country. We only go after the poor, powerless people.

    Jefferson Davis wasn’t hanged. Robert E Lee wasn’t hanged. I could go on.

  7. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Two things:

    Only the loser out-of-touch with reality cosplaying schlubs are being sent to prison. We need to see some front page coverage of non-funny-looking domestic terrorists taking the perp walk, the guys who have full armories in their basements or in the ceiling of their garages. The scary people.

    And the media have yet to get their heads around the fact that Republican politicians are not going to collapse in sobbing puddles of remorse and fear if they get asked hard questions. The media are still living in a world where people confronted with their malfeasance try to wriggle out of it or otherwise show that they recognize political norms of behavior. Republicans have learned from Trump that the flat-out lie is unchallengeable, that “Yeah, so?” is a powerful response.

    There are apparently rumors of a January 6 “reunion” floating around social media; if it comes off, that will change things.

    Also: don’t forget that Trump only gets coverage these days from friendly sources, he’s not in everyone’s face like he was, and his irritation factor has gone down considerably for the general public.

    And again also: pandemic exhaustion is real and there’s a limit to how much strong emotion people can generate for politics.

    But I really believe something bad will happen before the mid-terms this fall. There’s just too much malignant hatred out there on the ultra-ultra-right.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @Tony W:

    Wedon’t arrest or prosecute ringleaders in this country. We only go after the poor, powerless people.

    Jefferson Davis wasn’t hanged. Robert E Lee wasn’t hanged. I could go on.

    We didn’t hang Davis and Lee because a relatively benign peace was not only a condition of ending the war, which otherwise might have dragged on for several more years, but because it was thought more conducive to reconciliation. But, as a general principle, going after ringleaders is very much our policy. See our approach to organized crime.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: But, as a general principle, going after ringleaders is very much our policy. See our approach to organized crime.

    James, that doesn’t even count. You know as well as I that mafiosos are always fair game, but politicians and corporate leaders?

    How many of the ringleaders were prosecuted for torture in the war on terror?
    And yeah, sure a bunch got convicted for Iran/Contra. Some even went to prison. And then got pardons/commutations.
    How much time did Lewis Libby do? Keeping his mouth shut got him commuted fairly quickly.
    How many Sacklers are in prison? Are they even going to lose any money?
    Is Elizabeth Holmes the only one going to prison for the Theranos shenanigans?
    If Bernie Madoff had stolen millions from poor people, I doubt he’d have had to do community service.

    an edit function!

    Seeing as I’ve got one, I’ll mention Enron where Lay, Fastow and Skilling were convicted, but Lay never did a day and his conviction was vacated because he died while it was on appeal. But hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

  10. Bnut says:

    @James Joyner: It’s our approach to foreign policy, see Soleimani.

  11. Gustopher says:

    And, no, the Jan. 6 riot is unlikely to be top of mind in my midterm vote unless the Republicans nominate a candidate who was directly involved or who advocates for more of the same.

    What are the odds that it won’t be?

    147 Republicans voted to not certify the results. And it has become a Known Truth in the party that the only way Democrats can win in by cheating — the Big Lie has been repeated countless times since then.

    The odds of John McCain rising from the dead and relocating to your district is relatively low. Less than a 1 in 4 chance by my guesstimate.

    Which Republicans aren’t supporting the Big Lie, or at least acquiescing to the Big Lie?

  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I’ve been pondering this question of and on all day and I think that in some ways, a majority of Americans (yes, even Democrats) are over January 6. The hearings are turning out to be the emptiest of empty gestures–maybe even exceeding BENGHHHAAAAAAAAAZZZZZZZIIIII!!!!! in their pointlessness. We’re not going to convict anybody except a few sad sacks at the back of the dog team, we’re not going to achieve any resolution/closure, we’re not going to convince any Republicans (especially in the leadership) to make substantive positive changes to how we elect the Prez (or anyone else, for that matter), and if Barton Gellman at The Atlantic is correct, we may well find that insurrection 2.0 will succeed where FG failed. (I think Gellman is overwrought–and hope he is, too–but I’ve been wrong before.)

    So yeah, from the standpoint that it’s just another Kabuki theater performance, I know I’m over it. I suspect that I’m not alone, either.

  13. liberal capitalist says:

    …34 percent say the Republican Party is headed in the right direction…

    We all know that the GOP has a loyal 28% that will vote GOP no matter what. Whether tribalism, “sticking it to the libs”, or just plain insanity, that number doesn’t seem to change.

    So, at 34%, we have only an additional 6% of the American population saying that they are ok with fascism authoritarianism.

    Hardly seems like a stunning groundswell.

  14. Donald W Bohlken says:

    The never ending fantasy that Trump supported, planned, or was involved with the Capitol riots on January 6th dissolves in light of the following facts: 1. Trump’s plans to use lawful means to contest the election relied on vice president Pence and Congressional representatives. It was essential to those plans that Congress not be disrupted. The riot only served those opposed to Trump. 2. In order to arrive at the Capitol in time for the initial attack one would have had to leave the ellipse, site of Trump’s speech, at somewhere between 5 minutes before he began to speak and 8 minutes after he began to speak. The speech did not end until long after the Capitol violence had started. 3. Trump never advocated for any invasion of the Capitol, only for a “peaceful and patriotic” march to the Capitol to “cheer on our representatives”.

    The “Orange Man Bad” crowd ought to ask why the two leaders of the Oath Keepers, who are repeatedly cited in indictments of others, and former Oath Keeper Ray Epps, who was extremely active in encouraging and apparently coordinating and directing the invasion of the Capitol not only have not been investigated or indicted, but are not being subpoenaed by the January 6th committee. Are they FBI informants?