‘They aren’t watching’: January 6 panel fails to sway GOP voters

As the US congressional committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot resumes its public hearings this week, experts have questioned whether the panel has been able to reach supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Committee members have said one of their primary goals is to make Trump’s role in the January 6, 2021 attack clear to the United States public, and over the course of eight public sessions, they have connected the events of that day to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

But with a ninth hearing set to take place on Wednesday, Trump’s grip on the Republican Party appears to remain firm.

“There’s a simple reason the hearings haven’t impacted Republican opinion: they aren’t watching,” Thad Kousser, a professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, told Al Jazeera.

“It didn’t attract the eyeballs of people who had already dismissed January 6. If you’ve made up your mind that violently attacking the Capitol to overturn an election wasn’t a big deal, there’s probably not much that could sway you from that.”

Punishing critics

Republican lawmakers largely wrote off the hearings from the start, refusing to cooperate and describing the panel’s work as a partisan effort to slander Trump, who delivered an incendiary speech to a crowd of his supporters just before the riot broke out in Washington, DC.

So far, the committee has said that Trump watched the attack on television as family members and advisers “begged” him to intervene; that he knew his election fraud claims were false, and that he nevertheless pressured Justice Department officials to back those allegations, among other things.

But evidence suggests that Republican voters have not been swayed by those findings.

A Monmouth University poll released on Tuesday found that 60 percent of Republicans still believe that President Joe Biden’s election victory was fraudulent, while another Monmouth poll in August found that 80 percent of Republicans had a positive view of Trump.

“Very few Republicans are even bothering to pay attention [to the hearings]. The party is now driven by loyalty to Donald Trump, so it’s not a surprise,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, told Al Jazeera. “There’s a strong partisan undertone to how people take on the information from the hearings, if they take it on at all.”

Murray added that the percentage of Americans who blame Trump for the riot has remained largely unchanged since June, with 38 percent saying Trump is directly responsible, 25 percent saying he encouraged those involved, and 33 percent saying he did nothing wrong.

Despite the committee’s argument that Trump incited the Capitol rioters as well as a string of ongoing legal problems, the former president remains the favourite to receive the party’s nomination in 2024, should he seek re-election.

Voters in Republican primaries ahead of November’s midterm elections also have punished officials who fail to display sufficient loyalty to him or push back against his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen through massive fraud.

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