WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Since the deadly insurrection on January 6 in the US Capitol, former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies have presented false and misleading accounts to downplay the event that left five dead and dozens injured. His followers seem to have listened.
Three months after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try to reverse their defeat in the November election, about half of Republicans believe the siege was largely a nonviolent protest or the work of activists. on the left who “were trying to make Trump look bad.” ”Has found a new Reuters / Ipsos poll.
Six out of 10 Republicans also believe Trump’s false claim that the November presidential election “was stolen” from him due to widespread voter fraud, and the same proportion of Republicans believe he should run again in 2024, the poll showed. from March 30 to 31. .
Since the attack on Capitol Hill, Trump, many of his allies within the Republican Party and right-wing media personalities have publicly painted a picture of the day’s events at odds with reality.
Hundreds of Trump supporters, mobilized by the former president’s false claims of a stolen election, climbed the walls of the Capitol building and smashed windows to enter while lawmakers were inside voting to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory. The rioters, many of them in Trump campaign clothes and waving flags, also included well-known white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys.
In a recent interview with Fox News, Trump said the rioters posed a “zero threat.” Other prominent Republicans, such as Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have publicly doubted that Trump supporters were behind the riots.
Last month, 12 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a resolution honoring the Capitol Police officers who defended the grounds during the uproar, and one lawmaker said he objected by using the word “insurrection” to mean describe the incident.
The Reuters / Ipsos poll shows that a large number of grassroots Republicans have embraced the myth. While 59% of all Americans say Trump bears some responsibility for the attack, only three in 10 Republicans agree. Eight out of 10 Democrats and six out of 10 independents reject false claims that the Capitol siege was “mostly peaceful” or was organized by leftist protesters.
“Republicans have their own version of reality,” said John Geer, a public opinion expert at Vanderbilt University. “Its a big problem. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires evidence. “
The refusal of Trump and prominent Republicans to repudiate the events of January 6 increases the likelihood of a similar incident happening again, said Susan Corke, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. .
“That’s the biggest danger: normalizing this behavior,” Corke said. “I think we are going to see more violence.”
In a new reminder of the security threats facing the US Capitol since January 6, a motorist rammed a car into US Capitol police on Friday and brandished a knife, killing an officer. and wounding another and forcing the closure of the Capitol complex. Officers shot and killed the suspect.
Allie Carroll, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said its members condemned the attack on Capitol Hill and referred to a Jan. 13 statement by President Ronna McDaniel. “Violence has no place in our policy … Those who participated in the assault on our nation’s Capitol and those who continue to threaten violence must be found, held accountable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said. McDaniel.
A representative for Trump did not respond to requests for comment.
‘DANGEROUS TURN ON REALITY’
The disinformation campaign aimed at downplaying the insurrection and Trump’s role in it reflects a growing consensus within the Republican Party that its fortunes remain tied to Trump and his devoted base, political observers say.
According to the new Reuters / Ipsos poll, Trump remains the most popular figure within the party, with eight out of 10 Republicans still having a favorable impression of him.
“Republicans in Congress have assessed that they need to maximize Trump’s vote to win,” said Tim Miller, a former spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. “That is the way back to the majority.”
Republicans in Congress show little sign of breaking away from Trump. In the immediate aftermath of the deadly siege of the Capitol, 147 Republican lawmakers voted against certifying Biden’s electoral victory. The Democrat-led House of Representatives accused Trump of “inciting an insurrection,” making him the only US president to be indicted twice, but a majority of Senate Republicans cleared him of the charge in a judgment.
Last week, Republican Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana said the party must cater to working-class voters who make up Trump’s political base ahead of next year’s critical midterm elections that will dictate control of Congress.
“Members who want to swap working-class voters because they resent the impact of President Trump … are wrong,” Banks wrote in a memo to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, whose content he posted on Twitter.
Banks was one of 147 lawmakers who voted to block Biden’s certification of victory, and later voted against impeaching Trump. Banks did not respond to requests for comment.
Some mainstream Republicans argue that after Republicans lost both the White House and control of both houses of Congress under Trump’s oversight, the party should move away from the former president to attract moderate, independent and suburban voters.
In the latest Reuters / Ipsos poll, only about three in 10 independents said they have a favorable opinion of Trump, one of the lowest levels on record since his presidency. Most Americans, about 60%, also believe that Biden won the November election fairly and directly, and said Trump should not run again.
Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of Trump’s leading Republican critics in Congress, has criticized the push to rewrite the history of the Capitol attack.
The disinformation effort is “such a dangerous and disgusting twist on reality,” Kinzinger wrote in a fundraising appeal to his supporters last month, “and what is even worse is that it is not challenged by many in the Party. Republican”.
The window for the Republican Party to distance itself from Trump appears to have passed, Miller said.
“There was an opportunity after January 6 for Republican leaders to really put their foot down and say, ‘We can’t be the insurrectionary party,'” he said. “Now that opportunity is completely gone.”
The Reuters / Ipsos survey was conducted online, in English, across the United States. It collected responses from 1,005 adults between March 30 and March 31. The survey has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of approximately 4 percentage points.
Editing by Soyoung Kim and Alistair Bell