Power Poll: Area leaders assess assault on U.S. Capitol

Business, political, and community leaders in metro Atlanta lay blame for the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol on outgoing President Donald Trump, a new survey found.

Seven out of 10 respondents to the latest Atlanta Power Poll said they hold Trump responsible for the Capitol insurrection.

The poll is part of a nationwide survey that solicits community leaders’ opinions on important issues. It does not have the precision of a scientific poll and is meant only to provide some insight into the thinking of metro Atlanta leaders.

The poll was taken Jan. 11 through Jan. 14, even as details were emerging on the more sinister intent of the rioters – chants of “Hang Mike Pence,” a makeshift gallows and noose, and guns and pipe bombs stashed nearby. Five deaths, numerous injuries, and arrests across the country have been attributed to the siege.

The survey was emailed to 546 local leaders, 123 or about 23% of whom responded.

Participants were asked two questions regarding the Capitol insurrection, dealing with blame and the event’s potential impact on Congress.

A third question dealt with the long-range implications on Georgia politics of the historic victories by Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in their Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoffs. Those wins give Democrats control of the White House and both the U.S. House and Senate.

On the issue of blame for the attack on the Capitol, 13% of respondents said they hold the mob leaders responsible, compared to 71% who point to Trump as the instigator.

About 12% said they considered the attack the fault of politicians who had not taken seriously the concerns of people who did not trust the outcome of the November general election, which Trump lost to former Vice President Joe Biden.

Only about 2% blamed it on the lack of security at the Capitol.

“This is a time for responsibility and honesty,” said Kevin Green, president and CEO of Midtown Alliance, “which sometimes means telling people what they don’t want to hear.”

A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, expressed similar sentiments.

“Perhaps the simplicity of ‘telling the truth’ will be back in style as a result of recent events …,” he said in an email.

Most poll respondents (52%) weren’t sure of the attack’s impact on Congress, saying a lot will depend on signals from top leadership. The rest were generally split between thinking nothing will come of it (18%) or the political divide will only worsen (about 19%).

On the impact of the Ossoff and Warnock victories, 34% said they see this as opening the door to Democrats gaining more power. But almost an equal number said it could lead both parties to be more willing to compromise since no party will have all the power.

About 9% said Georgia remains a “red state” and will revert to normal soon.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, a Democrat, wrote Power Poll to say she believes the elections of Ossoff and Warnock are significant.

They are “a sign of the growth of effective political coalitions in a state too long divided by race and ‘ole boy politics.”

ExploreAJC Power Poll: Read about our previous questions and survey results

Comments from respondents

Julia Bernath, president of Fulton County Schools: “I am very proud that Congress did not let the disturbing and tragic events of Jan. 6 deter them from their duty of certifying President-Elect (Joe) (Biden and Vice President-Elect (Kamala) Harris. I am hopeful that our elected officials and our citizens will begin to look at each other again with an eye to what brings us together as Americans in a country of freedom and equality. Our country has no room for the hatred and violence displayed by a misguided group. Now is the time to come together for the good and the future of our democracy and its people.”

Randy Lewis, managing director and co-owner of Fitzpatrick & Lewis Public Relations: “It is as if the 1960s have returned. Almost any complaint justifies a riot. And the response of various ‘leaders’ and the media is doing little but contribute to a growing national rage about the direction of the country. At this point, there does not appear to be a single adult in the room.”

Glenn Stephens, Gwinnett County administrator: “I am proud of local elected leaders who acknowledge their roles as public servants and who have the interests of their constituents at the forefront in all of their actions and decisions. Our federal elected leaders could learn much from having the responsibility to actually deliver services 24/7 while being accessible to those who will hold you accountable.”

Ed McBrayer, executive director of The PATH Foundation: “The lack of security and the mob leaders were close seconds.”

Charisse Davis, Cobb County school board member: “It is a disgrace that Republican senators and representatives in Georgia held sham hearings, giving Giuliani and others a platform to spread lies. All of these hearings across the country did nothing but rile up the base and led to the inevitable violence we saw at the Capitol by Trump loyalists. I fear that they are not done.”

Nathaniel Smith, founder and chief equity officer at Partnership for Southern Equity: “America is at a moral crossroads. It will be up to us to decide the direction we choose to take.”

Susan Grant, retired CNN executive vice president: The recent events at the Capitol are a clear invitation to our elected representatives to tell the truth (admit they are perpetrating falsehoods by continuing to say the election results are not accurate), to lead with values and principles (vs. self-interest), and to hold themselves and the President accountable (resign, impeach, take responsibility, do their jobs). The pandemic -- overburdened health care system, unnecessary deaths and illnesses, getting the vaccine distributed and getting people vaccinated -- and its economic impact -- lost jobs, lost housing, lost education, -- needs to be our nation’s primary focus.

Kelly Walsh, Decatur city commissioner: “It is imperative that state lawmakers and local elected officials in Georgia be dedicated to the preservation of democratic principles and stand together as a bulwark of civil society right here where we live.”

Kevin Green, president and CEO of Midtown Alliance: “More than pointing fingers of blame, this is a time for responsibility and honesty. That sometimes means telling people what they don’t want to hear.”

Kenan Sener, head of the Fulton County Science Academy: “The sad event at D.C. showed that we cannot take anything this great nation has achieved for granted. I hope that we all acknowledge this and do our part to heal, rehabilitate, and protect democracy moving on. Personally, I have faith in this great nation that we take a lesson from this and build even a stronger democracy together.”