Tom Gjelten, NPR, February 11, 2021
The mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol may have been a fringe group of extremists, but politically motivated violence has the support of a significant share of the U.S. public, according to a new survey by the American Enterprise Institute.
The survey found that nearly three in 10 Americans, including 39% of Republicans, agreed that “if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.”
That result was “a really dramatic finding,” says Daniel Cox, director of the AEI Survey Center on American Life. “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.”
The survey found stark divisions between Republicans and Democrats on the 2020 presidential election, with two out of three Republicans saying President Biden was not legitimately elected, while 98% of Democrats and 73% of independents acknowledged Biden’s victory.
The level of distrust among Republicans evident in the survey was such that about 8 in 10 said the current political system is “stacked against conservatives and people with traditional values.” A majority agreed with the statement: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”
The survey also found “considerable cleavages” among Americans with respect to pride in their national identity. About 6 in 10 said they are proud to be an American, but the finding varied along generational and race lines, with significantly lower levels of national pride among younger and nonwhite people.