An in-depth Harvard University study of the motivations of those who participated in the January 6, 2021 riot at the United States Capitol found that only 8% wanted to start an insurrection or civil war, contrary to claims of the January 6 Committee.
The Harvard Crimson reported last week:
In the most comprehensive study to date on what motivated Trump supporters to attack the Capitol, Shorenstein Center researchers found that 20.6% of rioters, a plurality, were motivated to riot because they supported Trump. Another 20.6% of rioters cited Trump’s fraudulent claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged as the main reason for their participation in the Jan. 6 riot.
The third most common reason for attacking the Capitol: the desire to start a civil war or an armed revolution, according to the study. Nearly 8% of defendants indicated that this was their main motivation.
In an interview, Fagan said she was surprised at how often support for Trump and concerns about the election were cited as primary motivations for joining the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
As constitutional law scholar Jonathan Turley has pointed out, the study suggests that many riot participants believed – rightly or wrongly – that they were defend democracy, without trying to overthrow it:
The study found that a plurality of the 417 defendants charged by the federal government were motivated by “lies about voter fraud and enthusiasm for re-election”. He concluded that “[t]he documents show that Trump and his allies convinced countless Americans that representative democracy in the United States was not only in decline, but in imminent existential danger.
The study also found that belief in QAnon “was one of the [defendants’] lesser motives. The study was hardly pro-Trump and one author even expressed surprise with the results since conspiracy theories “were so well displayed in much of the [riot’s] visual images”.
Again, none of this exonerates or excuses those who rioted on January 6 or those who fueled the riot. However, the use of the term “insurrection” by politicians, pundits and the press is not an accurate characterization of the motivation of most people who visited the Capitol that day. It was clear that it was a protest that turned into a riot.
Several members of the Jan. 6 Committee, including the chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), have in the past opposed certification of presidential elections when Republicans have won, citing irregularities with voting machines or a foreign interference.
Joel B. Pollak is editor of Breitbart News and host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot Sunday nights from 7-10 p.m. ET (4-7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book Neither Free Nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His latest book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is the winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.