A new poll released in the aftermath of Wednesday's violent coup attempt—incited by President Donald Trump and enabled by Republican lawmakers who questioned the legitimacy of President-elect Joe Biden's victory—shows that nearly half of GOP voters approve of the pro-Trump mob's storming of the U.S. Capitol, findings that observers say are inseparable from how right-wing media outlets are lying about the insurrection.
"The right's favored media... offered an alternate reality in which everyone but pro-Trump rioters were to blame for the mayhem at the Capitol."
—Sara Fischer, journalist
YouGov Direct conducted the survey on Wednesday night between 5:17 pm and 5:42 pm. A majority (62%) of the 1,397 registered voters who had heard about the day's events told pollsters that they consider the pro-Trump mob's actions a threat to democracy. But while 93% of Democrats and 55% of Independents perceive what happened as a threat to democracy, only 27% of Republicans see it that way.
In fact, a greater percentage of Republicans (45%) actively support the storming of the Capitol than oppose it (43%). Overall, 71% of registered voters are opposed to the coup attempt, including 96% of Democrats and 67% of Independents.
Among voters who erroneously believe that the presidential election was fraudulent enough to affect the outcome, 56% say the invasion of the halls of Congress was justified.
A majority of registered voters (55%), including 90% of Democrats and 51% of Independents, believe "a great deal of the blame" lies with Trump. Yet, in the eyes of GOP voters, President-elect Joe Biden is the biggest culprit, with 52% assigning some degree of blame to Biden compared to 28% attributing the debacle to Trump.
When it comes to removing Trump from office as a result of what happened at the Capitol—an option that is gaining support among federal lawmakers—50% of registered voters, including 83% of Democrats and 47% of Independents, are in favor. Conversely, 85% of Republicans consider immediate removal inappropriate.
Whereas roughly two-thirds to three-fourths of Democrats deemed the participants "extremists," "domestic terrorists," "criminals," and/or "anti-democratic," 50% of Republicans called them "protestors" and 30% labeled them "patriots."
From @YouGov poll: among Republican voters, 45% approve of the storming of Capitol, 30% think the perpetrators are 'patriots', 52% think Biden is at least partly to blame for it, and 85% think it would be inappropriate to remove Trump from office after this. This is not a fringe. pic.twitter.com/Kiysi8lyp1
— Silvia Merler (@SMerler) January 7, 2021
Republican voters' relatively high degree of support for this week's seditious assault on democracy, progressive critics say, cannot be understood without looking at how right-wing media outlets spewed lies when covering the day's events for their viewers.
Writing in Axios, media analyst Sara Fischer reported that "the right's favored media—conservative TV, websites, and social networks—offered an alternate reality in which everyone but pro-Trump rioters were to blame for the mayhem at the Capitol." Fischer provided a breakdown of "the version of events a good chunk of America got."
"Instead of condemning the pro-Trump mobs that stormed Washington, right-wing media outlets mostly blamed left-wing activists, the media, Vice President Pence—and even police officers—for the riots that some suggested were the start of a 'civil war' in America," Fischer wrote. "Hosts on Fox News, One America News Network, and Newsmaxwent so far as to baselessly suggest that the unlawful protestors at the Capitol may have been members of Antifa."
"Even when it became obvious that the riots were becoming destructive, right-wing networks downplayed the severity of events, calling those marching on the Capitol mostly peaceful protestors," Fischer noted. "Presenters on OANN argued the riots were nothing compared to racial justice protests over the summer."
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According to Fischer, "one meme that was posted to TheDonald.win, a fringe-right alternative social network, featured a cartoon of a police officer telling a Black Lives Matter protester, 'Please stop, we can work this out'—while holding a police shield, but holding a gun up against a white MAGA protestor," despite the fact that the overwhelmingly white right-wing insurrectionists were given preferential treatment compared to thebrutal repression of multiracial protests against police violence.
Shedding light on GOP voters' relatively high approval rating of this week's deadly mayhem in the nation's capital—and the complicity of hundreds of Republican lawmakers in fomenting it—Fischer reported that right-wing media outlets suggested that "rioters had no choice but to storm the Capitol in order to fight for investigations into a 'fraudulent' election."
In addition to the destructive role played by misinformation-spreading right-wing media outlets, journalist David Sirota on Thursday also pointed out that "we have long known that the far right—and specifically many Trump supporters—are hostile to democracy."
"Polling data from Monmouth University in 2019 found that about one-third of the strongest supporters of Trump scored in the highest ratings for authoritarian tendencies," Sirota wrote. "In all, Democracy Fund data show that roughly one-third of Americans 'say that an authoritarian alternative to democracy would be favorable.' That's what was on display Wednesday."
Nathan Robinson of Current Affairs on Thursday wrote that even if "the invasion of the Capitol was a farce... it should still terrify us," arguing that the history of the rise of fascism in interwar Germany holds important lessons that need to be heeded.
The Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 was farcical and a failure. The New York Times said that it was the last we would hear of Nazism. Ten years later, they swept into power and unleashed mass murder. We need to learn history's lessons. The risk is not over. https://t.co/SHrTZxmxoU
— Nathan J Robinson (@NathanJRobinson) January 7, 2021
Alluding to Wednesday's right-wing attack on U.S. democracy, historian Mike Duncan tweeted Thursday that while "the people who raided the capitol last night ought to be punished... they are foot soldiers."
"The real threat to the republic," Duncan added, is far-right political leaders and right-wing media outlets "who have whipped up the storm."
The people who raided the capitol last night ought to be punished. But they are foot soldiers. The real threat to the republic is an axis of political leaders (Trump, Cruz, Hawley etc) and right wing media outlets (Fox, OANN on down the line) who have whipped up the storm.
— Mike Duncan (@mikeduncan) January 7, 2021
Sociologist Samuel Farber argued in Jacobin earlier this week that the "openly authoritarian, racist, xenophobic," and anti-scientific brand of politics known as Trumpism, which is here to stay until its root causes are addressed, is "a right-wing response to the objective conditions of economic decay and a perceived moral decay."
In order to defeat the reactionary force of Trumpism, Farber wrote, it will be necessary to eliminate the conditions of intensifying inequality that fueled it. This perspective is shared by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has written that preventing "another right-wing authoritarian" even worse than Trump depends on pursuing and enacting a bold agenda that improves the lives of working-class people.