Will voters care more about what happened in January 2021 when it comes to the midterm, or what happened in October 2022 at the grocery story and the gas pump? That’s been the question as the January 6 House committee has gone on a full-bore attempt to use televised hearings, including a prime-time launch, to engage voters in their narrative over the Capitol riot and “stop the steal” nefariousness, of which there has been plenty to highlight.
At least according to a new poll out from Trafalgar, the impact of that effort has been minimal at best. More than six in ten voters say the probe will have no impact at all on their midterm vote, and most of those who say it will are Democrats:
Consider this your regular reminder that Trafalgar is a Republican-leaning polling house, but they’re also usually very accurate. This poll was conducted with in conjunction with a conservative group, Convention of States Action, which has been trying to advance a proposal for an Article V convention to add constitutional amendments for a balanced budget and term limits for Congress. COS is a longtime partner of Trafalgar’s though, and the poll appears to have a solid methodology and a well-balanced sample.
Of course, if you’re worried about reliability, these results line up with what Politico’s Betsy Woodruff Swan hears from the House floor:
"Nobody gives a **** about January 6th." pic.twitter.com/SWDARjKKMr
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) June 23, 2022
“Does the Jan. 6 hearing break through at all?” anchor Chuck Todd asked after he noted polling that shows most Republicans think Trump truly believed there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
“I don’t think it does. I’ve talked to two separate Democratic members of Congress in the last couple weeks about Jan. 6 — obviously, I can’t say who — and both of them have said, offhandedly, nobody gives a bleep about Jan. 6 when they are talking about their districts and the way that elections play out,” she said.
In other words, Trafalgar’s results aren’t surprising at all. Voters are more focused on the crises in front of them than the crisis that’s seventeen months in the rear-view mirror, and that turns out to be true across all demographics except Democrats. Even there, the response isn’t particularly impressive, especially given the framing of the question:
Among independents, it’s 17/74. And note that Trafalgar’s question asks whether the January 6 probe will have any impact, not whether it will be important or the most important factor. Slightly over a third of Democrats say it won’t have any impact. Overall, only a third of voters say it will have any impact, and that doesn’t take into account what might have more impact even with those voters.
The only other demo to have a majority of respondents say this will have an impact on their midterm vote is black voters, and even that’s only 59/34. That’s clearly an overlap with Democrats too, but Democrats may want to worry more about other demos that usually also overlap with their party:
And that’s after two weeks of wall-to-wall coverage in the media, too. If those demo splits look familiar, they should — they’re pretty close to the Quinnipiac poll numbers on Joe Biden’s job approval rating from Wednesday. That’s another reason to treat this poll seriously — its numbers line up pretty well with the political trends of the moment, which are entirely focused on the moment rather than the past.
The conclusion here is that the January 6 hearings won’t have any impact on the midterms. If anything, they exist to confirm choices for voters who were going to vote for Democrats already, or who want to acknowledge the awfulness of January 6 but also have other pressing priorities. That doesn’t mean that they won’t have any impact at all, though. It may well be that the effort will have more impact on the 2024 presidential primaries, especially but not limited to the GOP. If the needle doesn’t move in the midterms with this, Democrats may decide that they really need to find a new message and a new set of policies to sell to voters rather than the regurgitation of twenty years of radical-progressive nanny-statism.
As for Republicans, they will also have to choose. Do they spend 2023 and 2024 looking in the rearview mirror and airing grievances from four years earlier, or do they find a candidate and a message that focuses on the present and future? The failure of the January 6 committee to engage the electorate has a lesson for the GOP on that question, too.