After Impeachment Trial, Trump Voters More Convinced Than Ever Of His Innocence

Among the public at large, less than a third say they think the ex-president did enough to condemn the siege of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

Former President Donald Trump’s voters are more convinced than ever that his behavior during the Capitol insurrection was neither worthy of impeachment nor even “inappropriate,” a HuffPost/YouGov survey finds.

The recent impeachment trial was filled with never-before-seen videos of pro-Trump rioters breaking into the Capitol on Jan. 6, throwing into stark relief the danger they posed to Congess’ top leaders and Vice President Mike Pence. The videos were paired with Trump’s own comments promoting lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him, taking aim at Pence and encouraging his supporters at a rally right before the siege to “fight” on his behalf.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack, Trump’s backers distanced themselves from the mob, with most Republicans saying they disapproved of the rioters’ actions and didn’t believe that they represented his supporters as a whole. Such disavowals, however, haven’t extended to Trump, whose actions are seen by most of his voters as entirely acceptable.

Among those who voted for Trump in the November election, 60% now say that his behavior on the day of the riot was appropriate, according to the poll, which was taken days after the Senate voted to acquit Trump for inciting the insurrection. Thirty percent of these voters say his behavior was inappropriate but not an impeachable offense, with just 3% calling it impeachable.

Then-President Donald Trump at a reelection campaign rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, on Sept. 18, 2020.
Then-President Donald Trump at a reelection campaign rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, on Sept. 18, 2020.

By contrast, a survey taken earlier this month as the trial got underway found 49% of Trump voters calling his behavior appropriate, 36% describing it as inappropriate, and 4% saying it was impeachable.

More than half of Trump voters, 55%, say they believe the former president’s rhetoric discourages his supporters from acting violently, with just 5% saying he encourages violence; 64% say Trump did enough to specifically condemn the storming of the Capitol. These responses are largely unchanged since the beginning of the Senate trial.

Public sentiment as a whole looks considerably different. Among all Americans, 45% say Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 was impeachable, with 18% saying it was inappropriate but not impeachable, and 24% that his conduct was appropriate.

About half of Americans, 52%, say Trump did not do enough to condemn his supporters’ storming of the Capitol, with just 28% saying he did enough. Forty-four percent say that Trump’s rhetoric encourages his supporters to act violently, while 23% say it discourages them from doing so, and 20% that it does neither. By a 6-percentage-point margin, 45% to 39%, Americans say the Senate made the wrong decision in voting to acquit him of the impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection.

Roughly 9 in 10 of President Joe Biden’s voters view Trump’s conduct as impeachable, with similar shares saying that he did not do enough to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrection and that the Senate made the wrong decision in acquitting him.

The vast majority of Americans in the survey, 82%, say they’d heard or seen at least some news coverage of Trump’s trial, but only about one-third said they’d watched more than brief clips and highlights of it.

As is often the case with political news events, the audience for the trial was somewhat self-selecting. Biden voters were 20 percentage points likelier than Trump voters to say they’d watched most or all of the proceedings. Sources of information about the trial also broke along political lines: Among Trump voters who followed at least some of its coverage on cable news networks, 71% reported watching Fox News, with fewer than 1-in-10 tuning into CNN or MSNBC. About half of Biden voters who watched cable coverage say their viewing habits included CNN, with 44% watching MSNBC and just 2% tuning into Fox.

The disparity in opinions, though, can’t be reduced to a question of media bubbles. Although the respective sample sizes are small, Trump voters who did watch at least parts of the trial weren’t notably likelier than those following along less closely to find his behavior inappropriate.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Feb. 16-19 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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