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Harvard study: Trump supporters participated in Jan. 6 because … they supported Trump

In what purports to be “the most comprehensive study to date” of what motivated Trump supporters at the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, a trio of researchers have concluded Donald Trump was the biggest factor.

Specifically, support for the 45th president and his “lies about election fraud and enthusiasm for his re-election” made up a plurality of the 417 federally charged defendants’ reasons for participating, The Crimson reports.

A bit further down the list in third place (8 percent) was “a desire to start a civil war.”

The researchers reviewed over 450 court documents related to the defendants’ cases. “The documents show that Trump and his allies convinced an unquantifiable number of Americans that representative democracy in the United States was not only in decline, but in imminent, existential danger,” the study said.

“This belief translated into a widespread fear of democratic and societal breakdown, which, in turn, motivated hundreds of Americans to travel to DC from far corners of the country in what they were convinced was the nation’s most desperate hour.”

MORE: Prof: Educators should teach January 6 was a ‘case study in white privilege’

Belief in QAnon “was one of the [defendants’] lesser motives,” which surprised study author Kaylee Fagan as images of the conspiracy theory “were so prominently displayed in much of the [riot’s] visual imagery.” Nevertheless, the study made sure to point out this doesn’t necessarily mean that, “by and large,” the rioters did not believe in QAnon — just that law enforcement didn’t think it was “relevant to their crimes.”

From the story:

While the role of QAnon in motivating the Jan. 6 attack may still be unclear, Fagan said the rioters saw Donald Trump “as a leader and as a key player in the movement that they were participating in.”

“Obviously, I cannot speak to whether crimes were committed or whether any of this is intentional on Trump’s part,” she said. “That’s for the [House Jan. 6 select] committee to decide.”

“But it does seem clear to us that the largest portion of the attackers whose documents we analyzed, were compelled — at least in part — by their desire to support Donald Trump and their belief in his lies about the election,” Fagan added.

Two years ago, study author Joan Donovan (pictured) wrote an article claiming “right-wing agitators” such as Andy Ngo were using images of 2020 Black Lives Matter and antifa riots to  “mobilize white militia and vigilante groups to take up arms” against the two groups — “flipping the script” and using “riot porn,” so to speak.

Donovan also said George Floyd’s killing was but one in a “seemingly endless line of merciless and vicious events perpetrated by police against Black people.”

MORE: Students sue for ‘adequate’ civics education; claim Jan. 6 was result of lack thereof

IMAGES: Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com; Harvard University

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.