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Saturday, July 23, 2022

Support for Political Violence

Garen J Wintemute et al. "Views of American Democracy and Society and Support for Political Violence: First Report from a Nationwide Population-Representative Survey."

Background: Several social trends in the United States (US) suggest an increasing risk for political violence. Little is known about support for and personal willingness to engage in political violence and how those measures vary with lethality of violence, specific circumstances, or specific populations as targets. Design, Setting, Participants: Cross-sectional nationwide survey conducted May 13 to June 2, 2022; participants were adult members of the Ipsos KnowledgePanel. Main Outcomes and Measures: Weighted, population-representative proportions endorsing an array of beliefs about American democracy and society and the use of violence, including political violence, and extrapolations to the US adult population. Results: The analytic sample included 8,620 respondents; 50.6% (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 49.4%, 51.7%) were female; mean (SD) age was 48.4 (18.0) years. Two-thirds of respondents (67.2%, 95% CI 66.1%, 68.4%) perceived ″a serious threat to our democracy,″ but more than 40% agreed that ″having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy″ and that ″in America, native-born white people are being replaced by immigrants.″ Half (50.1%) agreed that ″in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States.″ Among 6,768 respondents who considered violence to be at least sometimes justified to achieve 1 or more specific political objectives, 12.2% were willing to commit political violence themselves ″to threaten or intimidate a person,″ 10.4% ″to injure a person,″ and 7.1% ″to kill a person.″ Among all respondents, 18.5% thought it at least somewhat likely that within the next few years, in a situation where they believed political violence was justified, ″I will be armed with a gun″, and 4.0% thought it at least somewhat likely that ″I will shoot someone with a gun.″ Conclusions and Relevance: Coupled with prior research, these findings suggest a continuing alienation from and mistrust of American democratic society and its institutions. Substantial minorities of the population endorse violence, including lethal violence, to obtain political objectives. Efforts to prevent that violence, which a large majority of Americans already reject, should proceed rapidly based on the best evidence available. Further research will inform future prevention efforts.