Thursday, January 06, 2022

Contrary to much urban belief, Capitol riot arrestees aren't disproportionately rural; groups 'rooted in the mainstream'

Proportion of population and Jan. 6 arrestees by geography (Daily Yonder chart; click the image to enlarge it.)

Many believe the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020 is largely the work of rural residents and/or fringe elements, but the facts show that neither belief is true.

The more than 700 arrestees "represent a broad swath of the nation’s geography and are no more likely than the general population to be from small towns and rural areas, a Daily Yonder analysis shows," Anya Slepyan, Tim Marema and Claire Carlson report. The Yonder's findings remain fairly consistent with an analysis they did a month after the riot.

Though 14% of the nation's population lives in nonmetropolitan counties, only 12% of the arrestees are from rural counties. "That means on a per capita basis, rural Americans are a bit less likely than the general population to have been charged for crimes in the Capitol insurrection," the Yonder reports. "County-level political geography didn’t seem to be a major factor, either. The insurrectionists are only slightly more likely than the general population to come from a county that Donald Trump won by a landslide in the 2020 presidential election." Specifically, about 29% of arrestees came from counties where Trump won by more than a 20-point margin; only 24% of Americans live in such counties.

Rioters were not part of a fringe movement comprised of unemployed extremists either, according to University of Chicago political science professor Robert Pape. On CBS's "Face the Nation," Pape said his studies of Jan. 6 and insurrectionist sentiments show that over half of the arrestees were business owners, meaning they were putting significant assets at risk by invading the Capitol. Only 7% were unemployed—about the national average—and only 13% were members of militia groups.

"This is very different than we're used to seeing from right-wing extremists where typically 25 percent, 30 percent of right-ring violent offenders are unemployed, and virtually none are CEOs or business owners," Pape said.

Race could also be a driver. "When we look at the key characteristic of why some counties and not others, what we see is the counties that sent the insurrectionists are the counties losing the most white population," Pape said. "Well, that dovetails with this right-wing conspiracy theory that used to be part of the fringe called the great replacement. The idea that whites are being replaced. This idea is also that the Democratic Party is doing this deliberately. Well, that idea now is voiced by mainstream political leaders, by mainstream media figures, embraced full throttle." That goes especially for Capitol rioters who are now running for office, as at least 57 are doing, Brittany Gibson reports for Politico. In his primary elections in 2016, Trump did best in counties with recent, large influxes of immigrants.

Pape's broader studies of political sentiment have found that about 21 million Americans believe that Joe Biden's presidency is illegitimate and that the use of force to restore Donald Trump to the presidency is justified. Of that group, 42% said their main news sources were conservative outlets Fox News, Newsmax, and One America, while 32% say they get news mainly from CNN, NPR and major newspapers. Only 10% said their main source of news was right-wing social media like Gab or Telegraph. Pape didn't say how many were getting their news mostly from Facebook, which is not conservative in nature but whose algorithm steers users toward extreme content.

Those 21 million Americans are "a mass of combustible material," Pape warned. "Think of it as like dry wood that could be set off like — from a lightning strike or a spark, as in wildfires. Well, we're moving into a highly volatile 2022 election season, where there could be many sparks at the local levels. And a lot of our election laws, say Georgia or Texas, the counting of the vote has been more politicized than ever before."

On PBS "NewsHour" on Monday, Pape cautioned that insurrectionists are a "new type of political movement, with violence at its core" that is "rooted in the mainstream." Community and faith leaders must address this political reality, not just political leaders, he said.

"The Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol was neither a spontaneous act nor an isolated event," The Washington Post says in a comprehensive look divided into "Before, During and After."

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