50 million Americans condone political violence, new survey reveals
As mistrust grows towards our government, officials, and leaders, one in five Americans believe in justified political violence.
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According to a new mega survey titled, “Views of American Democracy and Society and Support for Political Violence,” one in five Americans, equivalent to over 50 million people, believe in justified political violence in certain circumstances. Distrust and alienation towards democratic institutions have reached a high never seen before in recent years with the pandemic, and the political turmoil that has surfaced as a result.
A team of public and medical health scientists at the University of California gathered opinions of over 9,000 Americans in hopes of figuring out how willingly Americans are to engage in political violence. Scientists have warned that “the prospect of large-scale violence in the near future is entirely plausible,” and this is more than a year after the horrific Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill.
The survey was conducted over three weeks beginning on May 3 by scientists Garen Wintemute, Sonia Robinson and Andrew Crawford.
The survey uncovered many interesting, but alarming truths of what Americans believe at this point in time. A huge part of the population, 3%, or 7 million Americans, believe that political violence is “usually” or “always” justified. At an extreme level, more than 12% of people said they would go as far as to intimidate or threaten another person for political advancement and 10% were willing to “injure” another.
More alarmingly, about one in four of the total respondents, which equates to over 60 million people when considering the whole country, believe violence could be justified “to preserve an American way of life based on western European traditions.” And just over 7.1% of the people revealed that they would go as far as to kill someone to get their political goals moving forward, which is about 18 million Americans willing to take a life over politics.
Other revelations include two-thirds of Americans, about 66% of the respondents, revealed they fear the country is going to come up against “a serious threat to democracy” and over half of the respondents believe the idea that another Civil War is imminent.
Along with the interesting findings, contradictions did occur when an overwhelming 89% of people said that they believe it is either “very” or “extremely” important that America remain a democracy. In the same breath, 42% said that “having a strong leader for America is more important than democracy.”
Misinformation and conspiracy theories also ran rampant, as one in five respondents believed in the baseless idea that America and its democratic institutions are “controlled by a group of satan-worshiping pedophiles” — a narrative pushed by QAnon.
Another popular QAnon idea that many subscribed to is the vision of “a storm coming soon” to the country that is supposed to “sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.”
Forty-one percent believed “in America, native-born white people are being replaced by immigrants” and in a similar tone, “our American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it,” with violence being the needle mover.
It is no secret that the feel good around democracy has plummeted in recent years as many saw throughout the pandemic with the rise in mass shootings, firearms sales, and a mixture of conspiracy theories and misinformation coming from news and non-news sources. Only time will tell whether confidence can rebuild.