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A majority thinks Trump is to blame for Jan. 6 but won't face charges, poll finds

Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump addresses them during a rally on Jan. 6, 2021. A NPR/<em>PBS NewsHour</em>/Marist poll found that a majority of respondents blame Trump for the attack on the Capitol that followed the rally, but that a slightly larger majority don't think he'll face charges.
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Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump addresses them during a rally on Jan. 6, 2021. A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that a majority of respondents blame Trump for the attack on the Capitol that followed the rally, but that a slightly larger majority don't think he'll face charges.

Ahead of a prime-time January 6th Committee hearing Thursday, a majority of Americans are paying attention and blame former President Donald Trump for what happened that day in 2021, but don't think he will be prosecuted, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

A majority of independents (55%) and 4 in 5 Democrats, but less than half of Republicans (44%), said they are paying at least some attention to the hearings.

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A majority (57%) said Trump is to blame a great deal or a good amount for the Capitol riot, including 92% of Democrats and 57% of independents, but just 18% of Republicans. The 57% overall figure is up slightly — and within the 4.1 percentage-point margin of error — from last December (53%).

Half of respondents said they think Trump should be charged with a crime, including 9 in 10 Democrats but only 10% of Republicans. Independents are split, 49% to 46%.

Six in 10 respondents said they don't think Trump will face any charges.

There has been only some, if any, movement in people's views of what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Half called it an insurrection and a threat to democracy, statistically unchanged from December.

A quarter, including 40% of Republicans, described it as an unfortunate event, but one in the past, so no need to worry about it anymore.

About 1 in 5, including another 40% of Republicans, said it was a political protest protected under the First Amendment.

Notably, a majority of independents (52%) now say it was an insurrection and a threat to democracy, up 9 points from December.

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The hearings haven't seemed to budge Republicans' views, though. In December, just 10% said Jan. 6 was an insurrection and threat to democracy. Now it's 12% — statistically unchanged.

Thursday night's hearing, which the committee says is its last, at least for now, will focus on what Trump was doing — and not doing — while the Capitol was under attack.

As a voting issue, the hearings don't appear to be breaking through, either.

The top issue overall continues to be inflation, which is at its highest point in decades, with Republicans and independents overwhelmingly saying so.

For Democrats, abortion is the top motivating issue right now, with the Jan. 6 hearing second, followed by guns and health care. Inflation is fifth on the list for Democrats.

Looking to 2024

These hearings don't look like a game changer for this year's midterms, with inflation continuing to be a top concern for swing voters.

But this all might be more relevant to how people vote in the next presidential election, with Trump openly talking about running again.

In this survey, Trump is still viewed highly unfavorably. Just 38% have a favorable opinion of him, and 58% have an unfavorable one.

Biden's favorability wasn't assessed in this survey, but his is marginally better than Trump's on average in other polls.

Trump, though, sees an opening against Biden, whom he sees as weak. Biden's approval rating is just 36% in this survey, his lowest in the Marist poll since taking office. That's largely because of a lack of enthusiasm among Biden's own party.

In these polarizing times, it's hard for a candidate to do well without his base fully behind him.

For all the buzz that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has gotten, he has some work to do on his name identification — 33% viewed him favorably and 39% unfavorably, but 28% didn't have an opinion of him or didn't know who he was.

Former Vice President Mike Pence is also eyeing a potential run, but his ratings aren't much better than Trump's — just 37% viewed him favorably and 50% unfavorably.

Meanwhile, January 6th Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, the Republican from Wyoming, who has openly defied Trump, is viewed favorably by just 13% of Republicans, but 60% of Democrats.

She was viewed favorably overall by 34% of respondents and unfavorably by 43%, and almost a quarter weren't sure or hadn't heard of her.

The survey of 1,160 adults was conducted July 11 through 17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Respondents were reached using live callers via cellphone and landline.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.