Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday January 6, 2022
A year after Jan. 6 riot, Americans and Canadians agree U.S. democracy in peril: poll
One year after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, a majority of Americans and Canadians alike say democracy in the United States is under threat, a new poll suggests.
The poll, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute and released Thursday, also found stark differences in how the event is viewed by conservatives and liberals in both countries.
The divide is more severe in the U.S., where 68 per cent of respondents who voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election disagree that the riots were an act of domestic terrorism — an opinion at odds with the FBI and other officials — while nearly three quarters still believe Trump won the election that he lost.
“There are only two (major) political parties in the U.S. … and this has become the narrative of one of those parties,” said Matthew Lebo, a political science professor at Western University who studies U.S. and Canadian politics.
“You cannot have a democracy with only one party that believes in democracy.”
Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the riots, which saw supporters of Trump violently storm the Capitol building and disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory the previous November. Seven people, including police officers, died during and after the siege.
Trump and his allies had spent months falsely declaring the election had been stolen from him, and had urged his supporters to “fight” at a rally held the morning of the attack.
A massive FBI investigation has resulted in criminal charges for over 725 people who participated in the riot, and a parallel investigation by U.S. lawmakers is looking into what Trump and his allies knew before and on Jan. 6 — as well as whether Trump stood by and did nothing as the riot unfolded.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that more than 325 of those rioters face felony charges, and vowed to hold all “perpetrators” accountable — suggesting organizers of the earlier rally could face scrutiny.
For the poll, Angus Reid surveyed over 1,000 Americans and more than 1,000 Canadians online over two days just before the end of 2021.
It found that a quarter of American respondents view the riots as a genuine attempt to defend American democracy, with 15 per cent going further by blaming foreign powers for orchestrating it. A quarter of Americans also believe the riots were a fiction created by the media, the poll suggests.
Overall, just under 60 per cent of Americans who responded to the survey said they agree the riots were an act of domestic terrorism. Among Biden voters, 92 per cent agreed.
Canadians view the riots more negatively, although political divisions were also found north of the border. Three-quarters of Canadian respondents said “domestic terrorism” was an appropriate label, with nearly all Liberal and NDP voters agreeing. One-third of Conservatives disagreed.
Yet Lebo says even the most extreme Conservative voters still believe in Canadian democracy, making the likelihood of a similar riot at the Parliament buildings unlikely. (Global News)