A year after Capitol riot, fears in US over democracy: Polls

New polls reveal Americans concerned about democracy, with some saying violence against government can sometimes be justified.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol on January 6 last year in Washington, DC [File: Julio Cortez/AP]

A year after the violent assault on the US Capitol, Americans remain deeply concerned about the health of their democracy and about a third say violence against the government can sometimes be justified, according to two polls.

The January 6 attack on the seat of Congress, led by supporters of former US President Donald Trump, was “a harbinger of increasing political violence”, and American democracy is “threatened”, according to two-thirds of those surveyed for a CBS News poll published on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Americans’ “pride” in their democracy has dropped sharply, from 90 percent in 2002 to 54 percent now, a Washington Post-University of Maryland survey found.

With the January 6 anniversary nearing, the polls offer specific causes for concern: CBS found that 28 percent of respondents believe force can be used to defend the result of an election, while 34 percent told The Washington Post that a violent action against the government can sometimes be justified – the largest percent in decades.

The results underscore the seemingly almost irreconcilable views dividing American society, which President Joe Biden, who took office 14 days after the Capitol rioting, has promised to overcome.

Two-thirds of Trump supporters continue to believe his baseless charge that Biden is not the legitimately elected president.

Trump had addressed thousands of supporters shortly before the Capitol assault, telling them the election had been “rigged” and that they should “fight like hell”.

Some 60 percent of those polled said Trump bears heavy responsibility for the invasion of the Capitol just as lawmakers were set to certify Biden’s victory.

‘Coordinated effort’

There again, opinion follows partisan lines: 83 percent of Trump voters placed his level of responsibility at only “some” or “none,” the Post survey found.

And 26 percent of Americans want him to run again in 2024, according to CBS.

A select committee of the House of Representatives has spent months working to establish the roles and responsibility of those who incited or may have organised the protest.

Despite limited cooperation from Trump’s inner circle, the panel has conducted more than 300 interviews and collected thousands of documents.

“We have uncovered some things that cause us real concern, things like people trying to … undermine the integrity of our democracy,” the panel’s chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson, said Sunday on ABC.

“It appeared to be a coordinated effort on the part of a number of people to undermine the election,” he said.

“It could be people in the executive branch. It could be people in the Department of Defense … and some very wealthy individuals.”

He said he would not hesitate to refer any evidence of illegality to the Department of Justice.

Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the panel, on Sunday strongly condemned Trump for waiting hours before urging the Capitol rioters to stand down.

He could easily have issued such a call, she told ABC.

“He failed to do so. It’s hard to imagine a more significant and more serious dereliction of duty.”

Source: AFP