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Senate’s Riot Report Inadequate


Partisan divide over calling Jan. 6 an insurrection

West Long Branch, NJ – It definitely qualifies as a riot although there is a big partisan split over whether you can call it an insurrection. But few say what happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th was a legitimate protest, according to the Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. The poll also finds there is not overwhelming confidence that the recent Senate investigation was thorough and accurate, but there is only a slight preference for launching an independent commission to examine the incident. If a commission is formed, though, large majorities want it to look into a wide array of potential causes for the riot, from white nationalism to potential voter fraud to the former president’s role.

What should the January 6th incident at the U.S. Capitol be called? A large majority (72%) of the American public feels “riot” is an appropriate descriptor. Over half (56%) say it is appropriate to refer to it as an “insurrection.” Just 33%, though, say calling it a “legitimate protest” is appropriate. “Riot” receives the most cross-partisan approval – 87% of Democrats, 67% of independents, and 62% of Republicans say the word is an apt description – but there is a wide gap for applying “insurrection” to the event – ranging from 85% of Democrats to 48% of independents and just 33% of Republicans who feel the term is appropriate. Conversely, 47% of Republicans and 39% of independents would call the incident a “legitimate protest,” although only 13% of Democrats accept that characterization.

“Most Americans agree that the violence at the Capitol was not a legitimate protest. Whether it rises to the level of an insurrection depends on which side of the aisle you sit,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Half (50%) of the American public wants an independent commission established to examine what happened at the U.S. Capitol. Another 39% say this review can be accomplished through internal investigations. In March, 53% said an independent commission was needed while 37% felt that internal investigations were adequate. Republican support for a January 6th commission has dropped to 34% (from 49%), while the support of political independents has remained basically stable at 43% (from 47%) and Democratic support has ticked up to 73% (from 62%).

“Back in March, Republicans may have been more hopeful that a wide-ranging investigation could raise questions about the legitimacy of Biden’s victory. It might be that their support for an independent commission has waned as that likelihood faded,” said Murray.

About 2 in 5 (43%) Americans are aware of the recently released U.S. Senate report on the incident. Just under half (47%) of the public trusts that the Senate report is thorough and accurate, with very few (8%) having a great deal of trust and 39% having some trust in the report. There is a small difference in trust levels when comparing those who are already aware of the report (53%) with those who are not (42%). More Democrats (64%) than Republicans (49%) express at least some trust in the Senate’s report, but independents (35%) are the least confident in its thoroughness and accuracy.

When informed that the report “examined the security and policing failures on January 6th, but did not look into the causes behind the incident,” only 21% of the public think this scope was adequate. Three-quarters (75%) feel the investigation should be expanded to look into the causes. This latter view includes nearly all Democrats (93%) as well as clear majorities of independents (70%) and Republicans (60%).

“Even though most Americans say the Senate report doesn’t go far enough, Republicans and Democrats have different ideas about what a wide-ranging investigation should entail,” said Murray.

If an independent commission is formed, clear majorities would approve of it looking into the growth of militant groups in the country (74%), the role that white nationalism played in the incident (68%), whether former President Donald Trump played a role (66%), and potential voter fraud in the 2020 election (58%). This is in addition to widespread support for having the commission examine the failure of Capitol Police to prepare for the violence (81%). These results are nearly identical to findings from Monmouth’s poll in March (except for the question about Trump’s involvement, which was not asked in the prior poll).

About 9 in 10 Democrats approve of these lines of inquiry except for exploring potential voter fraud (46% approval). Majorities of Republicans, to varying degrees, approve of having a commission look into the failure of police preparation (75%), potential election fraud (70%), militant groups (66%), and white nationalism (57%). However, just 42% of Republicans would back having a commission look into Trump’s possible role in the incident.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from June 9 to 14, 2021 with 810 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.


(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

[Q1-10 previously released.]

[Q11-31 held for future release.]

Turning to the incident at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th


32.Is it appropriate or not appropriate to describe this incident as a legitimate protest?

Not appropriate63%
(VOL) Don’t know4%

33.Is it appropriate or not appropriate to describe this incident as a riot?

Not appropriate24%
(VOL) Don’t know4%

34.Is it appropriate or not appropriate to describe this incident as an insurrection?

Not appropriate35%
(VOL) Don’t know8%

35.Do you think an independent commission should be set up to examine what happened at the Capitol or can this be accomplished through internal investigations?

Independent commission50%53%
Through internal investigations39%37%
(VOL) Don’t know11%10%

36.An independent commission could look into a number of different issues related to the incident. For each one I mention, please tell me if you approve or disapprove of a commission looking into it. [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]


(VOL) Don’t

The failure of Capitol Police to prepare for violence81%17%2%(810)
   — March 202181%17%2%(802)
The growth of militant groups in the country74%23%3%(810)
   — March 202176%22%2%(802)
The role that white nationalism played in the incident68%28%4%(810)
   — March 202170%26%4%(802)
Potential fraud in the 2020 election58%40%1%(810)
   — March 202159%39%2%(802)
Whether former President Trump played a role in the incident66%32%2%(810)
   — March 2021n/an/an/an/a

37.A Senate report on the U.S. Capitol incident was just released. Have you heard a lot, a little, or nothing at all about this report?

A lot9%
A little34%
Nothing at all57%

38.How much do you trust the Senate report to be thorough and accurate – a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

Great deal8%
Not much27%
Not at all22%
(VOL) Don’t know4%

39.The report examined the security and policing failures on January 6th, but did not look into the causes behind the incident. Do you think this type of examination is adequate or should the investigation expand to look into the causes of the incident?

Should expand75%
(VOL) Don’t know4%


The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from June 9 to 14, 2021 with a national random sample of 810 adults age 18 and older. This includes 281 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 529 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through a mix of random digit dialing and list-based sampling. Landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field), Dynata (RDD sample), and Aristotle (list sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

24% Republican
44% Independent
32% Democrat
49% Male
51% Female
30% 18-34
33% 35-54
38% 55+
63% White
12% Black
16% Hispanic
  9% Asian/Other
69% No degree
31% 4 year degree

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.