This article is part of TPM Cafe, TPM’s home for opinion and news analysis.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol has now held nine televised hearings, and will soon resume. Throughout the summer, millions of Americans have tuned in as horrifying images and powerful testimony rocked our television screens. But has there been an actual, measurable impact on voters? We know Americans are watching, but do they care?
Our research suggests that skeptical Americans, including those who initially believed the 2020 election was tainted through widespread voter fraud, may be starting to change their minds.
While there have been conflicting reports on the impact of the Jan. 6 hearings, our polling has been more conclusive. Since the hearings began, more Americans have come to view Jan. 6 as a violent attempt to overthrow the government and more Americans now see the committee’s findings as legitimate. As we look ahead to the midterms and on to 2024, I believe the committee’s communications offer a playbook to replicate on the journey to protect our democracy and thwart those who threaten it.
In partnership with Protect Democracy, my company, Citizen Data, ran equivalent random sample surveys in April, May and July. Our goal was to gauge public sentiment at three crucial junctures: before, immediately preceding, and after the latest round of hearings.
We found that between April and July, the share of Americans who believed that Joe Biden won the 2020 election increased by 5%. We saw declines in the share of people who did not believe he won the election, and in those who had doubts. Many of those surveyed who held onto their doubts or Big Lie beliefs changed their original view that Jan. 6 was a peaceful protest. Nearly twice the number of Americans who view the 2020 election as “stolen” and Jan. 6 as peaceful now view the events of Jan. 6 as a violent attempt to overthrow the government.
As the hearings continued, we also saw an increase in the proportion of Americans who viewed the committee hearings as fair and who believed that the committee’s recommendations should be taken seriously. This trend coincided with an increase in awareness about the hearings, suggesting that the more people learned, the more they came to trust.
In fact, Americans seem more inclined than ever to hold the former President and his affiliates accountable. Particularly in swing states, Republican candidates closely affiliated with Trump’s post-election and Jan. 6 activities — such as Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, and even Utah U.S. Senate incumbent candidate Mike Lee — face unique headwinds in their campaigns as democracy becomes a top-of-mind concern.
As we enter the final stretch of the midterms, we’d typically expect base voters to come home to their party. While there’s not yet any data indicating the Jan. 6 hearings will have significantly disrupted that trend this year, even modest movement among the electorate towards resisting a flawed narrative could have outsized electoral impact by further softening Trump’s approval.
Overall, our research found that more Americans now believe President Biden rightfully won the election. Prior to the hearings, 43% of voters said they would oppose President Trump for re-election. As a direct result of the hearings, an additional 13% decided that he shouldn’t run again — enough, if the numbers hold, to severely blunt his chances of winning a democratic election.
The growing understanding that Jan. 6 was indeed a “violent” attempt to “overthrow” the government could also lend more political power to an alt-Trump movement within the Republican Party, which for years has seemed unwilling to take a stand.
Whether or not the hearings flipped the script or simply revised a few lines at the margins, the findings and takeaways from the Jan. 6 hearings appear to have created additional voter demand for government accountability and a renewed commitment towards the peaceful transfer of power, a long-term strategy that requires counting progress in inches, not miles.
Furthermore, all Americans concerned about the health of our democracy should view the last few months, and perhaps what’s to come, as an indication that the efforts to renew and rebuild it are paying off.
Mindy Finn is the CEO of Citizen Data, a data analytics company. She previously worked for Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, and Twitter, Inc.