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Faith in American System Drops

Faith in American System Drops

National

January 6th committee pre-Hutchinson hearings were not changing minds

West Long Branch, NJ –  Only a little more than 1 in 3 Americans currently believe our system of government is sound, a view that has declined significantly over the past few years. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds that the House select committee to investigate January 6 has not changed many minds about what happened that day, in part because few Republicans are following the hearings. In fact, Republicans are less inclined than they were a year ago to describe the violence at the U.S. Capitol as either a riot or an insurrection. In the poll – conducted before Cassidy Hutchinson’s public testimony on June 28 – 4 in 10 Americans said former President Donald Trump was directly responsible for the incident.

Just 36% of the public describes the American system of government as basically sound.  This number has declined from 55% in February 2020 and from 44% in 2021, a few weeks after the Jan. 6 attack. Just over four decades ago, 62% said the American system was sound.  At the same time, the number of Americans who say our system of government is not at all sound has jumped from 10% in 1980 to 22% in 2021 and 36% in the current poll. The recent decline of faith in the American system has come at varying rates among different partisan groups. Among Republicans, the sense that our system of government is sound plummeted from 71% in early 2020 to 41% shortly after President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021, and has held fairly steady since then. The decline among independents has been more gradual – from 58% sound in 2020, to 46% in 2021, and 34% in the current poll. Democrats actually saw a brief increase in faith that the American system is sound from 2020 (34%) to 2021 (45%), but that has now dropped back to 36%.

“There’s more than just partisanship at work in declining faith in the institutional framework of American democracy. Yes, electoral outcomes play a role. Yes, the current economic crisis plays a role. But attacks on our fundamental democratic processes – and the lack of universal condemnation of those attacks by political leaders from both sides of the aisle – have taken a toll,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the public say it is appropriate to describe the incident at the U.S. Capitol as a riot, and half (50%) say it is appropriate to describe it as an insurrection. Both of these numbers, though, are down from a year ago (by 7 points for riot and by 6 points for insurrection). These negative views of Jan. 6 have held relatively steady among Democrats and independents, but have slipped significantly among Republicans. Last year, a clear majority (62%) of Republicans called the incident a riot. Now, less than half (45%) do. Similarly, a third (33%) of Republicans in June 2021 said it was appropriate to describe the incident as an insurrection, but only 13% say the same today.

By comparison, the number of Americans who say it is appropriate to describe the U.S. Capitol incident as a legitimate protest has remained stable over the past year (34% now compared with 33% in June 2021). However, the number of Republicans who see this incident as a legitimate protest has actually risen by 14 points to 61%, at the same time this view has declined among independents (down 6 points to 33%) and remained stable among Democrats (14%).

“Some Republicans who were initially appalled have now recast the events of Jan. 6 in a less negative light. It’s not clear the House committee hearings are having any impact in correcting this view, in large part because Republicans simply aren’t watching,” said Murray.

While nearly half (45%) of Democrats say they have been following the House select committee hearings a lot, just 16% of independents and 10% of Republicans say the same.  In fact, a majority (52%) of Republicans and 4 in 10 independents (41%) say they have not been following the hearings at all. [Note: the poll was conducted before the Cassidy Hutchinson testimony on June 28.]

When it comes to conducting a fair investigation, 34% of the public trusts the House committee a lot, 22% trust it a little, and 41% do not trust it at all. The vast majority of Republicans do not have any trust in the committee regardless of whether they have been following the hearings (65%) or not (78%).

Overall, just 6% of all Americans say the recent committee hearings have changed their mind about what happened at the Capitol or who was responsible for Jan. 6. Among Republicans who have been following the hearings, just 1 in 10 – representing 5% of all Republicans – say they have changed their opinion about the incident. In a follow-up question, some of these Republicans say that they learned about the pressure Trump was exerting or that election fraud claims were spurious. However, others claim they have “learned” that “police officers were not killed in that protest,” or that “the Democrats were highly involved as well as the F.B.I.”

Currently, 29% of Americans believe Biden won the presidential election only because of voter fraud. In prior polls since November 2020, that number held steady at 32%. The 3-point difference in the current poll is just as likely to be the product of sampling variance as it is any real chipping away at this unsupported belief.

“The committee is preaching to the choir right now. There is little evidence these hearings are having any direct impact on the Republican base. The committee’s best hope is that the mounting evidence makes it untenable for key GOP leaders to continue to stay silent. So far, though, it seems fear of political retribution from Trump voters continues to be the overriding concern,” said Murray.

Prior to the June 28 hearing, over 4 in 10 (42%) Americans saw Trump as being directly responsible for the U.S. Capitol incident, 25% said he encouraged those involved but was not directly responsible for their actions, and 30% said he did nothing wrong regarding Jan. 6. While 83% of Democrats thought Trump was directly responsible, 59% of Republicans said he did nothing wrong. Two-thirds (66%) of the public say that members of Congress who assisted the attack’s planners should be removed from office. However, only 36% of Republicans feel that way.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from June 23 to 27, 2022 with 978 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

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

[Q1-11 previously released.]

12.Now, I’m going to read four statements about our American system of government. Listen carefully and then tell me which one is closest to how you feel: our system of government is basically sound and essentially needs no changes, our system is basically sound, but needs some improvement, our system is not too sound and needs many improvements, or our system is not sound at all and needs significant changes?

  TREND:June
2022
Nov.
2021
Jan.
2021
Feb.
2020
Nov.
2018
Dec.
2017
Nov.
1980*
Basically sound, no changes6%8%7%9%10%7%6%
Basically sound, some improvement30%35%37%46%42%43%56%
Not too sound, many improvements26%26%33%24%26%25%27%
Not sound at all, significant changes36%30%22%21%22%24%10%
(VOL) Don’t know2%1%0%1%1%2%1%
 (n)(978)(811)(809)(902)(802)(806)(1,103)

      * Source: Opinion Research Corporation

13.Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square, or do you believe that he only won it due to voter fraud?

  TREND:June
2022
Jan.
2022
Nov.
2021
June
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Nov.
2020
Fair and square63%61%62%61%62%65%60%
Due to voter fraud29%32%32%32%32%32%32%
(VOL) Don’t know8%7%5%7%6%3%8%*
 (n)(978)(794)(811)(810)(802)(809)(810)

          * Includes 2% who said Biden would not be declared the winner.

[QUESTIONS 14-16 WERE ROTATED]

Turning to the incident at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021…

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

  TREND:June
2022
June
2021
Appropriate34%33%
Not appropriate62%63%
(VOL) Don’t know4%4%
 (n)(978)(810)

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

  TREND:June
2022
June
2021
Appropriate65%72%
Not appropriate32%24%
(VOL) Don’t know3%4%
 (n)(978)(810)

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

  TREND:June
2022
June
2021
Appropriate50%56%
Not appropriate44%35%
(VOL) Don’t know6%8%
 (n)(978)(810)

17.The House of Representatives created a select committee to investigate the U.S. Capitol incident that has recently been holding public hearings. How much have you been following these hearings – a lot, a little, or not at all?

 June
2022
A lot23%
A little40%
Not at all37%
 (n)(978)

18.How much do you trust that the House committee is conducting a fair investigation – a lot, a little, or not at all?

  TREND:June
2022
Nov.
2021*
A lot34%26%
A little22%31%
Not at all41%41%
(VOL) Don’t know3%2%
 (n)(978)(811)

            * Nov 2021 wording:  “How much do you trust the House committee to conduct a fair investigation…?”

19.Have the recent House January 6 Committee hearings changed your mind about what happened at the Capitol that day or who is responsible, or have the hearings not changed your mind?

 June
2022
Yes, have 6%
No, have not90%
(VOL) Don’t know4%
 (n)(978)

20.Do you think Donald Trump is (a) directly responsible for January 6th, (b) encouraged those involved in January 6th but was not directly responsible for their actions, or (c) did nothing wrong regarding January 6th?

 June
2022
Directly responsible42%
Encouraged those involved25%
Did nothing wrong30%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
 (n)(978)

21.Should members of Congress who assisted the planners of January 6th be removed from office, or not?

 June
2022
Yes, removed66%
No, not removed26%
(VOL) Don’t know8%
 (n)(978)

[Q22-40 previously released.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from June 23 to 27, 2022 with a probability-based national random sample of 978 adults age 18 and older. This includes 343 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 635 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. Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata (RDD, n=565), Aristotle (list, n=168) and a panel of prior Monmouth poll participants (n=245). 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). 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 3.1 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.


DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
26% Republican
43% Independent
31% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
30% 18-34
33% 35-54
37% 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.