Poll: Most Americans favor prosecuting Jan. 6 rioters

A nationwide poll shows broad support for prosecuting rioters involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but almost half of respondents said they expected penalties would be too lax.

According to the poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 69% said it was “very important” for federal authorities to arrest and prosecute those responsible for the insurrection.

Support for prosecuting the rioters was strongest among Democrats, 86% of whom said it was very important. Even so, a total of 79% of Republicans supported prosecution as either very important or somewhat important. However, a narrow majority of Republicans — 54% — said too much attention was being paid to the riot and its impacts.

The release of the poll comes as federal authorities struggle to manage what prosecutors have called one of the largest criminal investigations “in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence.”

More than 300 people have been charged in the riot and court documents filed in several cases by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., say investigators anticipate at least 100 more people will be charged.

While a large cross-section of the country believes those responsible for the unrest on Jan. 6 should suffer legal consequences, that support wanes dramatically among Republicans who believe former President Donald Trump won the election. Among those voters, fewer than half believe it is very important suspects in the riot should be prosecuted.

The Pew Research Center polled about 12,000 U.S. adults from March 1-7 for the survey, which has a 1.5% margin of error.

The new poll comes alongside a newly released assessment by the Director of National Intelligence reaffirming that politically motivated violence continues to be the most significant domestic terror threat. A four-page, unclassified summary of the report states that extremists “motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat to the Homeland in 2021,″ and highlights groups motivated by “biases against minority populations and perceived government overreach.”

“Newer sociopolitical developments — such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the US Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence — will almost certainly spur some (domestic violent extremists) to try to engage in violence this year,” the assessment concludes.

Militia groups and white supremacists are singled out as presenting the most danger by the intelligence community. The report is similar to intelligence reports released in recent years under the Trump administration.

“The Intelligence Community has confirmed again what we all saw come to life on Jan. 6: domestic violent extremists, including white supremacists, continue to be the most lethal threat to the American public,” House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement Thursday.