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BY ANTHONY SALVANTO, JENNIFER DE PINTO, FRED BACKUS AND KABIR KHANNA

As former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial begins, a 56%-majority of Americans would like the Senate to vote to convict him, and the same percentage say he encouraged violence at the Capitol — views that are still somewhat linked to Americans’ presidential votes in 2020, reflecting ongoing partisan division.

To those in favor of conviction, this trial is described as holding Mr. Trump “accountable” and “defending democracy.” To those Americans (mostly, Republicans) opposed to it, the trial is “unnecessary” and a “distraction.” 

In fact, amid the recent focus on the congressional GOP’s direction now, under one in five rank-and-file Republicans favor a conviction, while most still broadly value loyalty to Mr. Trump. Many current Republicans say they might even join a new party headed by Mr. Trump if he were to start one. And while almost all call violence unacceptable, most Republicans feel that efforts by Mr. Trump and some Republicans to overturn the 2020 results were justified.

To the extent there’s any split among Republicans over the way forward vis-a-vis Mr. Trump — both in terms of impeachment, specifically, and loyalty to the ex-president more generally — it’s a lopsided one in favor of the more ardent Trump backers. By more than two to one, Republicans call any GOP Senate vote to convict disloyal versus those who’d call it principled. By three to one, Republicans say it’s at least somewhat important to them the party remains loyal to Mr. Trump, generally, rather than not. 

Then, just over two-thirds of self-identified Republicans today say they might even join a new Trump political party separate from the GOP, including a third who’d say yes to that idea right now. (For those Republicans who say loyalty to Mr. Trump is very important, that “yes” to joining rises to a majority.) And two-thirds of Republicans still echo Mr. Trump’s claims following the election and still do not consider President Biden the legitimate winner.

Across party lines, views on the trial and conviction largely match views on whether or not the former president encouraged the violence. Those who think he did encourage violence favor conviction, and that’s true among independents too.

We also took a look at how partisans see each other, in the wake of recent events, in whether you think the other side are enemies — and a threat to one’s entire way of life — or merely political opposition, just differing on policy. And that divide is as stark as any partisan one. More Republicans describe Democrats as enemies right now than as merely political opposition, a view that rises even higher among Republicans who most want the party to be loyal to Mr. Trump. 

Democrats are somewhat more inclined to view Republicans as political opposition instead of enemies.

But taken together, this helps define a divide in America in approach to politics as much as partisanship — between those partisans who see the other side as the enemy, and the remainder who simply don’t go that far.

Conspiracy theories

As conspiracy theories such as QAnon may come up in the trial arguments, and members of Congress wrestled with how to address these last week, more than four in 10 Americans say they’ve heard at least something about QAnon, though only 11% say they’ve heard a lot. Of those who’ve heard of it, a majority believe its ideas are false, and relatively few in either party believe the ideas are true. 

By comparison between the parties, Republicans who’ve heard of QAnon do express a little more belief, or at least uncertainty, about its ideas, rather than outright rejection, with a quarter saying the ideas are at least probably true, and another third simply not sure. Democrats, by contrast, mostly say the ideas are false.

And while majorities believe a call for violence is unacceptable, no matter their views on conspiracy theories, among those who think QAnon ideas are true, there is some increase in the number who say such calls are acceptable, rising to about a third, as compared to those who think the ideas are false, where it’s fewer than one in 10.

And a larger question remains about how the events of these weeks will impact views of the parties beyond their bases. At the moment, 25% of Americans feel the Republican Party represents their views all or most of the time, and 37% feel the Democratic Party does. 

This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,508 U.S. residents interviewed between February 5-8, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as the 2020 presidential vote and registration status. The margin of error is ±2.3 points.

CBS

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