In a deeply polarized America, nearly one in four citizens say that violence may be necessary in order to “save” the country.
The 14th annual American Values Survey, carried out by the non-profit Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in partnership with the Brookings Institution think tank, provides an insight into thoughts and feelings of Americans on issues outside of policy.
In contrast with traditional polls, the survey focuses on values rather than decisions made by public officials.
The question over the necessity of violence has been asked in eight separate surveys by the PRRI since March 2021, just two months after the storming of the Capitol towards the end of the Trump administration.
However, the most recent figure marks the first time it has risen above 20%.
“True American Patriots”
As part of the poll, respondents were asked whether they agree that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” 23% said yes, up from 15% since the last annual survey to ask this question in 2021.
A third of Republicans agree with the statement, compared to 22% of independents and 13% of Democrats – all representing rises in the last two years. Among religious groups, one in three white evangelical Protestants believe that patriots believe that political violence may be necessary to save the United States.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the infamous events of January 6, 2021, 46% of those who support political violence also believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Those who hold a favorable view of the former president (41%) and/or believe in the “replacement theory” (41%) also agreed with the sentiment for violence. Those who believe the core white Christian nationalist view of God’s intention for America to be a new promised land for European Christians agreed by nearly two-fifths (39%).
“The political temperature in America is rising, and this year’s American Values Survey results reflect that reality,” said PRRI’s president and founder, Robert P Jones. “Our last presidential election was the first in our history without a peaceful transfer of power. With flashes of political violence continuing among us, and the 2024 election on the horizon, we should be deeply concerned about the growing number of Americans who express openness to political violence.”
Interestingly, a large proportion of Americans believe the future of democracy is at risk in next year’s election. Democrats are most likely to hold that view (84%), but it’s one shared by 77% of Republicans and 73% of independents.
The survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,525 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Interviews were conducted online between 25 and 30 August.
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
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