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The impact of the Jan. 6 hearings on American voters


Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say they are paying at least some attention to the January 6 hearings, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben spoke with some respondents to get a fuller picture of their reactions.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Vicki Nelson is busy. She's a school principal in Maryland. But she has been making time to watch the January 6 hearings.

VICKI NELSON: I have been riveted to them. My school is a year-round school, so I can't be there for the live testimony but to watch it live every chance I get.

KURTZLEBEN: One moment from the hearings has stuck with her - the testimony of Stephen Ayres, an Ohio man who entered the Capitol with the mob.

NELSON: I heard him speak of the remorse that he had because he had been, in his words, misled and really taken in by the social media. That impacted me because we all have lessons to learn, no matter who we are or where we come from.

KURTZLEBEN: Nelson is a Democrat, which makes it unsurprising that she's watching. Eighty percent of Democrats are paying at least some attention to the hearings, compared to around 4 in 10 Republicans. For Bill Hastie, an Alabama Republican, the testimony of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson stood out as a sign the hearings are biased. Hutchinson testified that she was told Trump had lunged at a Secret Service agent on January 6. Secret Service sources then anonymously denied that.

BILL HASTIE: They put the one assistant up there. And I listened to her. You know, the next day, it was refuted to a large extent. So just that sequence made an impression on me and, again, reinforced, you know, what I would call a certain amount of unfairness to the proceedings.

KURTZLEBEN: Multiple Republican respondents also complained that most committee members are Democrats. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled all of his nominees last year after Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of them. Hastie said that Republicans therefore share some blame in any unfairness. Then there are people like Sharon Anderson, a realtor from Texas.

SHARON ANDERSON: I personally feel like the trial is just a dog and pony show. The only two Republicans on the panel, I would not even consider them Republicans. And they probably will not keep their seats in the next election cycle.

KURTZLEBEN: One of those Republicans is Wyoming's Liz Cheney. She has only a 13% favorability rating among Republicans but 60% among Democrats, like Paulo Andrade from New York City.

PAULO ANDRADE: I have to give credit where credit due - Liz Cheney - even though it hurts my soul 'cause I am completely opposite of her politics. But she's doing the right thing.

KURTZLEBEN: Andrade is among the 5 in 10 Americans and overwhelming majority of Democrats who think Trump should be charged with crimes. However, he, also like many Americans, doesn't think Trump will be charged.

ANDRADE: I don't think Biden has the spine or the Justice Department. They're just too scared of his followers. And I am hungry for a leader who will use the full force of our laws to protect our democracy.

KURTZLEBEN: To be clear, it would be the Justice Department's job, not the White House's, to bring charges against Trump. However, if Trump is not charged, frustrated Democrats like Andrade could perceive it as further evidence that their party is ineffectual. There wasn't much evidence from these conversations that the hearings are changing people's minds about Trump's culpability. Then again, for some, January 6 itself already changed their minds. Denise Quigley from Louisiana voted for Trump twice. But after the Capitol riot, she says never again.

DENISE QUIGLEY: That was the turning point, you know. I never liked him, you know, as a person. But that definitely was, like, the last nail in the coffin.

KURTZLEBEN: Tonight's hearing is expected to dig into what exactly Trump was doing the day of January 6. Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News.


Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.