Poll Finds Most Americans Want Capitol Rioters Prosecuted

Most respondents ranked political extremism as a greater concern than religious extremism, and widespread consensus is federal officials should continue prosecuting the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in January.

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(CN) — Most Americans are fed up with political extremism, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday, and about seven in 10 adults say it is very important that the FBI and other federal agencies continue pressing charges against the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

A crowd gathered outside the U.S. Capitol building on that day to protest the counting of electoral votes for the 2020 presidential election, which former President Donald Trump falsely claimed was “stolen” from him. At a “Save America” rally in President’s Park that morning, Trump told the crowd, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Armed with the outgoing president’s blessing, rioters spilled into the Capitol, triggering an evacuation of senators, representatives and staff.

More than 300 participants from at least 40 states have been charged by federal prosecutors and the House of Representatives impeached Trump for inciting insurrection just one week after the riot. In February, the Senate acquitted the twice-impeached Republican, who was also permanently banned from several social media websites for egging on the protesters with false, inflammatory posts.

Pew, a nonpartisan research organization, polled 12,055 U.S. adults whose responses were weighted to represent the entire adult population of America in terms of education, ethnicity, gender, party affiliation, race and other demographics. Participants were polled earlier this month over telephone and through web surveys.

A combined 87% of respondents said it is “somewhat” (18%) or “very important” (69%) that “federal law enforcement agencies find and prosecute those who broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,” and only 12% said it was “not at all” or “not too” important.

Many respondents were pessimistic about the results of the investigations. Almost half said that the accused rioters will be given less severe penalties than they ought to receive. On the other hand, about one in five said the penalties will be more severe than they should be.

Those surveyed also had widespread agreement that both right-wing and left-wing extremism are major problems in America — and ranked both higher than both Islamic and Christian extremism, when asked by researchers.

Right-wing extremism was called a major problem by 52% of respondents, and left-wing extremism trails close behind at 51%. Extremism in the name of Islam is considered a major problem by 37% of adult Americans, while concern over Christian extremism lags by only 3 percentage points.

Pew found that respondents were deeply and nearly equally divided by party affiliation. Of the panelists who said they were Democrats or leaned Democrat, 73% called right-wing extremism a major problem, and only about three in 10 Republicans and panelists leaning Republican agreed. And 76% of right-leaning respondents said left-wing extremism is a major problem in America, but only 31% of left-leaning respondents agreed.

At 52%, Pew researchers found that just more than half of American adults believe the U.S. Senate should have convicted Trump in February for inciting the Capitol riot.

The survey was conducted between March 1 and 7, and the margin of error for questions posed to the full panel of 12,055 respondents is plus or minus 1.5%.

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