Majority of Republicans celebrate Capitol riots as "patriotism": poll

A new survey shows the deep polarization in American politics ahead of the upcoming midterm elections

Published April 20, 2022 1:28PM (EDT)

QAnon Shaman, Jacob Chansley at a Trump rally in Dalton, Georgia on the 4th of January. He attended the Capitol riots on the 6th of January in Washington, DC. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
QAnon Shaman, Jacob Chansley at a Trump rally in Dalton, Georgia on the 4th of January. He attended the Capitol riots on the 6th of January in Washington, DC. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

It should be of little shock that the American electorate has two distinct interpretations — at least —of current political issues. Perhaps no single event, it turns out, has drawn as divergent opinions as last year's Jan. 6 Capitol riot. 

The New Republic's special May issue centers on the current state of democracy both domestically and internationally. As part of their coverage, the news site conducted a survey with polling firm Hart Research Associates to better understand why most people believe the American government is failing and uncovered some surprising results. In response to whether the United States' current political system needs to see development anywhere from "major changes" to a "complete overhaul," Republicans agreed by 44 percent and Democrats by 48. Asked about the confidence they have in a likely governmental overhaul, only 25 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats said they were optimistic democracy will look different in the next 10 or 20 years.

The data revealed America has two distinct interpretations of current political issues. "Perhaps the origins of the divergence can be traced to how differently members of the political parties conceive of the nature of our government," states a TNR article summarizing the poll's results. For example, Republicans agree by 47 percent that democracy means "the protection of individual rights and liberties" while 22 percent selected "decisions are made by a majority of citizens." Democrats selected majority rule as their top answer at 29 percent but were also split on the question. 

As the survey questions go on, the divide between Republicans and Democrats is made strikingly clear.

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One question asked if a Republican won the next presidential election would Democrats accept the election results or attempt to overturn it. In response to "Democrats will accept the result," 88 percent of Democrats agreed while 79 percent of Republicans said "Democrats will work to overturn the result." 

Another area that accentuated American political polarization was on questions about current threats to democracy. The majority of Democrats are concerned about the increasing prevalence of white nationalist groups and Republicans making voting more difficult for people. Republicans are most troubled by mask-wearing, vaccine mandates, and Democrats committing election fraud. Both party affiliates agreed "the possibility of political violence" posed a real threat to democracy. 

Most Republicans think of January 6 as an "act of patriotism" at 57 percent while 88 percent of Democrats label it an "insurrection." 

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"I don't know whether we should take a lot of comfort in knowing there are still 43 percent of Republicans who think that was wrong or despair that it's only 43 percent," said Guy Molyneux from Hart Research Associates for TNR. 

Asked about what they would do to strengthen democracy, Democrats would be satisfied with an elimination of the Electoral College, disposal of the filibuster, and making Puerto Rico a state. Republicans differ with a preference for reducing absentee voting, limiting early voting times, revamping border security, and a complete shutdown of all illegal immigration. Both parties agree on limiting the years Supreme Court justices can serve.  

Americans on both sides of the aisle found common ground in opposing splitting the country into two separate nations representing the increasingly diverging values of "red" and "blue." Molyneux said for TNR that while Americans are angry at each other, they're not ready "to literally take their marbles and go to a new home."

By Meryl Phair

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Big Lie Capitol Riot Democracy January 6 Politics Poll Republican Republicans