It was a sobering scene for millions of Americans, dismayed by the behavior of their fellow citizens. But were those who attacked the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, a fanatic fringe of American society?
“That is not what we see in our studies of the insurrection,” said Dr. Robert Pape, director of the Threats and Security Project at the University of Chicago, who has spent the past year studying each of the 716 arrested in the US. attack on the Capitol. .
Far from marginality, he actually says, they were mainstream American society.
“More than half are business owners, CEOs, and clerks,” Pape said.
Pape said his study revealed that those arrested in the attack on the Capitol came from 45 states and the District of Columbia, with the largest numbers from Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas.
More came from the counties won by President Joe Biden than from former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, his analysis showed.
A quarter of those arrested have college degrees, he says, and only a third had any kind of criminal record.
“Only 13% are from militia groups like the Oathkeepers or extremist groups like the Proud Boys,” Pape said.
To delve into the sentiments that drove the attack on Capitol Hill, Pape commissioned a survey from the nonpartisan research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.
He said the study suggests that there are tens of millions of people who share the beliefs of those who came to Washington, DC, a year ago.
“The equivalent of 21 million American adults believe in two radical beliefs. One, that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president because he stole the 2020 elections, and two, that the use of force to return Donald Trump to the presidency is justified, ”Pape said.
A closer look at those numbers reveals more about the 21 million Americans who share those beliefs.
Pape said 75% indicated a belief in the conspiracy theory known as the “great replacement,” that liberals and the Democratic Party are deliberately trying to change the electorate with non-white immigrants.
“The second main idea is that about 49% believe in the idea of the QAnon cult, that there is a satanic cult of pedophiles that governs the United States government,” Pape said.
If those numbers are accurate, the research points to a troubling conclusion: that as horrifying as the images are, they shouldn’t be seen as a one-time event from the past, because even now, there are millions of Americans who share the beliefs that fueled the attack on Capitol Hill. .