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Washington Post-UMD Poll Finds Public Opinion Entrenched One Year After Capitol Attack

Americans Divided in Their Beliefs About Trump’s Responsibility for the Insurrection, and in Their Pride in U.S. Democracy

By Rachael Grahame ’17

President Donald Trump supporters storm the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

The latest Washington Post-UMD poll found that 54% of respondents believe that the protesters who breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were mostly violent, while 19% thought they were mostly peaceful.

Photo by Thomas Hengge/

A new Washington Post survey in partnership with the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement (CDCE) shows that Americans remain strongly divided along partisan lines in their beliefs about the attack one year ago on the U.S. Capitol.

The poll of 1,101 U.S. adults Dec. 17-19 found that 92% of Democrats and 57% of Independents said former President Donald Trump holds a “great deal” or a “good amount” of responsibility for inciting the insurrection, compared to just 27% of Republicans. Similarly, a third of respondents said it is sometimes justifiable for the citizens to take violent action against their government, split along party lines: with 23% of Democrats, 40% of Republicans and 41% of Independents expressing that view.

Further partisan differences persist regarding the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. While 88% of Democrats and 74% of Independents said they do not believe there is any solid evidence to suggest widespread voter fraud behind Trump losing to Joe Biden, 62% of Republicans do.

“The consistency of this belief among Republicans over the past year is somewhat surprising, given that Trump no longer has the megaphone he once had as president and through social media,” said government and politics Professor Stella Rouse, CDCE director and associate director of the UMD Critical Issues Poll. “However, in Trump's absence, right-wing media forces have taken up the mantle of perpetuating ‘The Big Lie.’ This is very concerning, as it will likely have a significant impact on the level of voter confidence in the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 presidential election, whether Trump runs or not—something that does not bode well for the health of American democracy.”

Echoing a recently released UMD Critical Issues Poll, the Washington Post-UMD poll also asked about individuals’ feelings on democracy in the United States. The latter poll specifically asked individuals how proud they are of U.S. democracy, and revealed a continuation of the downward trend observed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Ninety percent of Americans said in a 2002 Washington Post poll that they were proud of U.S. democracy, and 49% stated that they were “very proud.” Nearly one year after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, 54% said they are proud of U.S. democracy; 11% said that they are “very proud.”

“That just over 50% of Americans feel pride in our democracy is disturbing,” said government and politics Professor Mike Hanmer, research director of the CDCE. “The road toward a restoration of pride will be a long and rough one.”

Additional survey findings and analyses are in a Washington Post article by Dan Balz, Scott Clement M.S. ’17, a graduate of UMD’s Joint Program in Survey Methodology, and Emily Guskin ’06, who majored in communication and government and politics. The poll questionnaire, crosstabs and methodological details are available online, as are a related article and opinion column.



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