A new poll by the University of Virginia Center for Politics shows that a surprising number of Americans think it’s okay to resort to violence to stop the opposing political party. Many are reacting specifically to the fact that more Democrats feel this way than Republicans.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
What the Poll Measured
Among other viewpoints, the poll measured the percentage of people who aligned with the following statement: “People who support the [Republican/Democratic] party and its ideologies have become so extreme in what they want that it is acceptable to use violence to stop them from achieving their goals.”
Forty-one percent of Democrats polled agreed with the statement, while only 38% of Republicans did. Fifty-two percent of Democrats also said they “view individuals who strongly support the Republican party as a threat to the American way of life.”
A Clear Threat
Upon reviewing the poll, many were quick to (try to) explain the result. One person noted that left-leaning people feel the need to oppose the GOP at all costs because the “Republican policy is slavery to a theocratic authoritarian state that wants to oppress, imprison, deport, or exterminate political opponents.”
At the same time, those attempting to explain the poll noted that conservatives may want to use violence for different reasons, namely that they “feel they can’t win elections.”
Not a Both Sides Issue
As one person summed it up, “This isn’t a both-sides issue. This is one side fighting an existential threat and saying they aren’t going to lay down and die if some GOP fascist wins an electoral victory again, while the other is saying they don’t care what most people want.”
Civil War Vibes
Others noted that the poll’s result was reminiscent of the feelings that swirled just before the Civil War. One person even quoted Lincoln to make their point, saying, “One side would rather make war than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish.”
Only Fighting Back
Others thought it wasn’t surprising that Democrats would be willing to resort to violence to stop Republican opponents. “They [Republicans] have been promising to start a civil war for so long that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are some on the other side ready to shoot back,” one commenter said.
Another person lamented that this was the result of COVID-19. “Covidism normalized using violence and censorship to oppress and control people’s bodies and minds,” they said. “So now everyone just thinks it’s not only normal but necessary.”
Fault of the Republic
Others thought it had more to do with the current state of affairs on Capitol Hill. As one person put it, “When our democratic republic fails to perform some of the most basic things (such as state appointments), what’s the alternative?”
A few commenters suggested that the willingness to resort to violence and “explore alternatives to democracy” (another poll question) showed that Americans have lost faith in democracy as a whole. They said the results were unsurprising.
Don’t Trust the Polls
Others thought the results stemmed from a flawed question. “They asked the question as essentially whether the person can imagine any circumstance where violence would be warranted,” one commenter pointed out. “It frames this issue incorrectly because very few people would agree with the converse statement of ‘violence is never warranted under any circumstances.'”
“I am highly suspect of all polls, so I don’t really pay them much mind,” another person responded. “That said, if nearly 50% of all Americans now feel that violence is the answer, then we are in trouble.”
Life Is Good
A few optimists noted that despite the sinister poll results, Americans lead good lives overall. Actual violence breaking out between political parties seemed unlikely to them. “Although this is quite worrying,” one admitted. “We are still in a moment where life is protected like never before.”
Others pushed back, saying that while life is better now than it has been historically, they “never would have expected a mob of hundreds of Americans to invade Congress with the purpose of violently stopping the certification of a lawful presidential election.” Events like Jan. 6th have made them less sure of a non-violent solution.
Needs To Stop
“We absolutely should not embrace this rhetoric,” another commenter said, referring to the poll results. “Do you not think that those stoking violence on the right are painting the American Left as an existential threat? We cannot be sleepwalked into accepting political violence.”
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