The mob who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week has been roundly condemned by many political leaders with even President Donald Trump distancing himself from the actions that have led to multiple arrests across the country. Further, even more disturbing allegations have emerged in the wake of the riot, including very serious accusations of inside help, with reportedly missing panic buttons. Now, as Democrats and some Republicans seek to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the riot that left a police officer dead, voters are weighing in. While the overwhelming majority of Americans condemn the riots, multiple polls show many Republican voters sympathize with mob that stormed the Capitol.
Broadly speaking, 88 percent of all Americans condemn the riots, including 89 percent of Republicans. However a CBS News/YouGov poll shows that it’s not necessarily that clear cut for many voters. One in five Republicans approve of the rioters, and 43 percent of Republicans surveyed say they’d describe the insurrectionists as “patriotism.” Fully half — 50 percent — of Republicans say they’d describe the storming of the Capitol as “defending freedom.”
A Marist poll had similar findings, with Republican voters evenly split between those who say the storming of the Capitol was “mostly a legitimate protest” and those who say it was “mostly people acting unlawfully.”
As the Washington Post notes, both of these polls specifically address the storming of the U.S. Capitol itself — not the preceding protest. That’s a federal crime, even before you reckon with the violent acts and vandalism. Still, the CBS/YouGov poll found that 26 percent of Republican respondents feel that “it can be acceptable for people to use force or violence to try to achieve political goals, if they feel it is necessary.” That’s double the number of Democrats who feel the same way, which suggests that there is a thread of “the end justifies the means” on the Right.
This explains why Democrats will probably be unable to find a broad bipartisan coalition willing to impeach the President. As of this writing, six Republican leaders say they will vote in favor of impeachment, reflecting the fact that 60 percent of Republican respondents to the poll say Trump “did nothing wrong.” In fact, fully 84 percent of Republican respondents don’t think Trump should be impeached.
It’s worth noting that polling science is under a lot of scrutiny at the moment, particularly when it comes to politics. Neither the 2016 or 2020 political forecast were particularly prescient when it comes to what actually happened in the election, so all of this should be taken with pretty hefty grain of salt. Still, even if it’s off by a few percentage points, that’s millions of Americans who at least theoretically “gotta hand it” to those who stormed the Capitol.