Texas public opinion data points as congressional hearings on the January 6, 2021 attack of the U.S. Capitol begin

The House Special Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol kicked off a series of televised public hearings Thursday night with a prime time event intended to reignite interest in the subject of their work and provide some teasers of what’s yet to come in future public hearings.  

We’ll defer consideration of the persuasiveness (and political implications) of the case the committee appears set to make – there will be plenty of time, and more information, as the hearings unfold. For now, we want to draw on data in the Texas Politics Project archive to provide some context for how the resumed discussion of January 6 and related matters are likely to land with different groups of Texas voters.  The hearings resume Monday June 13; if you missed the opening session, it is worth watching in its entirety via the CSPAN link below.

The historical pattern of public opinion data suggest significant obstacles if the committee intends to spur Republicans to reconsider their views of the anti-democratic violence that erupted on January 6, of Donald Trump’s role, of the legitimacy of the 2020 election, and of Joe Biden’s presidency – and of democracy in America. Attitudes on these subjects have been and remain deeply polarized along partisan lines in a consistent pattern that makes it very unlikely that the hearings will change many minds – or, to look at the politics of 2022, will shift the dynamics of an election whose fundamentals are working against Democrats, both in Texas and nationally.

But we shouldn’t presuppose the outcome of the hearings before they’ve actually taken place. The results below provide a baseline for how these hearings might land among different groups of voters given their predispositions and interpretations of January 6.

Most directly: Texas Republicans don’t think the January 6 violence was an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Only 25% of GOP voters agree that “protesters who entered the U.S. Capitol last January 6 were attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election,” 62% disagree, nearly a majority, 44%, disagree strongly. On the other hand, 82% of Democrats expressed the belief, as of February of this year, that those “protests” were an attempt to overturn the election. Independent voters were more divided, but a majority of that group, 51%, agreed that the protesters were trying to overturn the election, compared to 36% who disagreed.

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Strongly agree67%35%10%
Somewhat agree15%16%15%
Somewhat disagree4%12%18%
Strongly disagree4%24%44%
Don't know/No opinion11%14%13%

A majority of Republicans don’t think Joe Biden was the legitimate winner of the election. Also in February – more than a year after Biden's inauguration – asked regardless of whom they supported whether or not Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election, 67% of Texas Republicans said no. Only 22% were willing to offer that the president legitimately won the election, with 11% unsure. 91% of Democrats and a majority of independents, 51%, said that Biden won the election legitimately, 33% believe he did not. One of the early points the committee’s presentation drove home was that the former president was told several times by members of his inner circle that there was no evidence that he had won the election, a conclusion confirmed dozens of times in the court system.

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Not sure4%16%11%

Both before and after the election, a large share of Texas Republicans expressed skepticism about the accuracy of elections in the United States. A large share of the Texas population was primed to buy Trump’s ungrounded claims that the election has been stolen from him by years of cultivation of doubts about the integrity of the electoral process by Republican leaders. In October 2021 polling, only 9% of Texas Republicans evaluated the official results of U.S. elections as “very accurate”, with only 21% describing those results as “somewhat accurate.” Instead, two-thirds of Texas Republicans describe those election results as either “somewhat” (31%) or “very inaccurate” (35%). Nearly all Democrats, 91%, believe U.S. election results are accurate, with 64% saying “very accurate,” while independents are more suspect, with 50% describing U.S. election results as accurate and 37% describing them as inaccurate.

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Very accurate64%27%9%
Somewhat accurate25%23%21%
Somewhat inaccurate4%21%31%
Very inaccurate1%16%35%
Don't know/No opinion6%12%4%

A majority of partisans of all stripes expect political violence to increase in the future. Expectations about future political violence are less polarizing than views about thenature of what happened on January 6th, though the overall expectation that more political violence will take place in the future dampens any relief one might feel about getting a respite from political polarization:  59% of Democrats, 53% of Republicans, and 50% of independents say they expect more political violence in the future, and only 13% of Democrats, and 8% of Republicans and independents, respectively, expect less political violence. A significant part of Thursday’s committee hearing was spent providing harrowing video evidence, some of it being seen for the first time, as well as testimony, that graphically illustrated the extent of the violence perpetrated by the pro-Trump mob as they broke through police lines and breached the U.S. Capitol. Partisan perceptions of what happened on January 6 no doubt vary, but the committee was purposive in reminding viewers that the violence perpetrated against the public safety officers by those who stormed the Capitol was significant and vicious, as was the threat of violence toward elected officials and staff one security - and that any attempt to downplay the violence is divorced from reality.

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More political violence59%50%53%
Less political violence13%8%8%
The same amount of political violence14%28%25%
Don't know/No opinion14%14%14%

The big picgture: a majority of Republicans — and independents — think democracy is working poorly in the U.S. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans, 63%, say that Democracy is working poorly in the U.S. today, with only 32% saying it is working well. Here, there is less polarization, but similar dynamics to the other items, with 45% of Democrats saying that Democracy is working well in the U.S. and 48% saying it is working poorly.

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Extremely well5%6%3%
Very well11%7%8%
Somewhat well29%16%21%
Somewhat poorly26%24%27%
Very poorly12%19%16%
Extremely poorly10%22%20%
Don't know/No opinion7%6%6%

Donald Trump remains popular with the vast majority of Texas Republicans. In April 2022 UT/TxPP polling, 79% of Republicans expressed a favorable view of the former president, including 53% who expressed a “very favorable” view. Nine out of ten Democrats expressed an unfavorable view, the vast majority, 84%, very unfavorable. Views of Trump among independents remain negative on balance, with 51% expressing an unfavorable view (40% very unfavorable), compared with 35% who hold a favorable view of the former president.

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Very favorable2%14%53%
Somewhat favorable4%21%26%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable2%11%10%
Somewhat unfavorable6%11%6%
Very unfavorable84%40%4%
Don’t know/No opinion1%3%1%

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PollApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't know
February 201781%10%8%
June 201780%13%7%
October 201778%15%7%
February 201883%11%5%
June 201887%7%6%
October 201888%7%4%
February 201988%8%5%
June 201988%8%5%
October 201988%8%5%
February 202087%9%4%
April 202090%7%3%
June 202086%8%6%
October 202090%8%2%

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PollApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't know
February 20178%83%10%
June 20175%90%5%
October 20175%92%4%
February 20188%85%8%
June 20188%84%9%
October 20186%91%4%
February 20197%88%5%
June 201911%86%4%
October 20196%90%4%
February 20205%89%6%
April 20207%86%6%
June 20205%93%2%
October 20207%89%4%

President Joe Biden remains consistently and intensely unpopular among Republicans (and only somewhat less so among independents). No fewer than 80% of Texas Texas Republicans have disapproved of Biden’s job performance as measured over eight surveys conducted since the beginning of his presidency. And the share of independents disapproving of Biden’s job performance has climbed to, and remains, uncomfortably high for Democrats in Texas looking to, at the very least limit the damages, in what will be a difficult election year for the president’s party.

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categoryApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't know
February 202112%80%9%
March 20217%82%11%
April 20217%86%7%
June 20219%84%7%
August 20216%91%2%
October 20215%91%4%
February 20226%91%3%
April 20226%87%6%
June 20227%88%4%
August 20229%88%4%
October 20228%90%2%
December 20229%88%3%
February 20237%91%2%
April 202310%86%4%
June 20237%88%5%
August 20235%91%3%
October 20238%85%7%

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categoryApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't know
February 202128%49%24%
March 202132%40%27%
April 202130%43%26%
June 202127%52%21%
August 202129%52%20%
October 202120%57%23%
February 202217%63%20%
April 202218%61%21%
June 202214%66%20%
August 202214%71%16%
October 202223%67%10%
December 202217%64%18%
February 202321%68%12%
April 202324%54%21%
June 202316%70%14%
August 202318%67%15%
October 202316%63%17%


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