The Slatest

Poll Finds Nearly 40 Percent of Republicans Think Political Violence Is Justifiable and Could Be Necessary

Pro-Trump rioters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Pro-Trump rioters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Brent Stirton/Getty Images

Here’s a troubling development: A survey released Thursday by the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) found that the vast majority of Republicans not only don’t think Joe Biden was legitimately elected, nearly 40 percent of them think political violence is justifiable and could be necessary. Those GOP respondents justifying violence said they agreed with the statement: “If elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.” Republicans gravitating towards violence while explicitly legitimizing it as a political tool is a dangerous precedent for the country. “I think any time you have a significant number of the public saying use of force can be justified in our political system, that’s pretty scary,” Daniel Cox, director of the AEI Survey Center on American Life, told NPR.

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When it comes to the election, the divide between what Republicans believe and what everyone else is seeing is stark. Two-thirds of Republicans say the election was not legitimate; that’s in contrast to nearly all Democrats (98 percent) and 73 percent of independents who say the election was on the level. That sense of Republican grievance, razor sharp after four years of Donald Trump, is noticeable everywhere in GOP attitudes about the country and themselves. “Seventy-nine percent of Republicans agree that the political system is stacked against more traditionally minded people,” AEI’s summary of the poll results found. “A majority (55 percent) of Republicans support the use of force as a way to arrest the decline of the traditional American way of life.”

Democrats were not immune to this type of thinking, but significantly fewer (22 percent)—along with 35 percent of independents—said they would support violence “to stop the disappearance of traditional American values and way of life.”

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