Jan 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive poll: Americans fear a Jan. 6 repeat

Do you accept Joe Biden as having legitimately won the 2020 presidential election?
Data: Axios/Momentive polls; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

A majority of Americans expect a repeat in the next few years of something like the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — and just half say they now have faith in American democracy, according to a new Axios-Momentive poll.

The big picture: The survey shows that fewer than six in 10 Americans say President Biden legitimately won the 2020 election — a share that hasn't changed since our poll last year, published hours before the Jan. 6 insurrection.

  • The doubts have survived Biden's inauguration and months of governance, as well as the lack of evidence of any substantial election fraud — and multiple investigations and audits that debunked former President Donald Trump's lie that the election was stolen.

What they're saying: "It's dispiriting to see that this shocking thing we all witnessed last year hasn't changed people's perceptions," said Laura Wronski, senior manager for research science at Momentive.

  • Either Biden "hasn't done enough" or "it shows that he never had a chance," she said. "The partisan division is still the story."

By the numbers: In a Momentive poll conducted Jan. 4-5, 2021 just ahead of Biden's certification, 58% of Americans said they accepted that Biden had legitimately won the election. That number is now at 55%, essentially a wash from a year ago.

  • About 57% of Americans — about half of Republicans and seven in 10 Democrats — say more events similar to Jan. 6 are likely to happen in the next few years.
  • According to the poll, 63% say the attack changed the way Americans think about the democratic government, with about half of those saying the change is permanent and others saying it's temporary.
  • And 58% said they support the work of the House select committee on Jan. 6. There's a huge partisan gap — 88% among Democrats, 58% among independents and 32% among Republicans.
  • In addition, 56% of Americans support the committee's ability to subpoena documents and testimony — and 51% support criminal penalties including prison time if witnesses refuse to comply. But again, those numbers are driven largely by the strong support among Democrats.

Between the lines: About 37% of those surveyed say they've lost faith in American democracy, while 10% said they never had any faith. Another 49% said they do have faith.

  • But it's actually Republicans (47%) more than Democrats (28%) saying they've lost faith, suggested their response has more to do with who's in the Oval Office now than the defiance of the former president and some of his supporters.
  • Republicans are three or four times as likely as Democrats to say voter fraud is a problem in their state.

The intrigue: While partisanship was a huge divide in the survey, age was another. Older Americans were far more concerned about the fate of democracy than younger respondents, and also more likely to support the work of the Jan. 6 commission.

  • About 19% of respondents said democracy is the issue that matters most to them right now, even above the economy or health care.
  • That was true for 31% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans.
  • It was true for just 8% of respondents younger than 35, but 41% of those 65 and older.

What we're watching: Democrats were far more likely to say government functions better when more people vote (79%) than Republicans (46%), while Republicans were two to three times as likely to say what's more important is that the "right people" vote.

Methodology: This Momentive online poll was conducted January 1-3, 2022, among a national sample of 2,649 adults. Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the Momentive platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is +/-2 percentage points.

Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.

Go deeper