Posted on September 24, 2023

Who Are the Americans Who Support Secession?

Philip Bump, Washington Post, September 22, 2023

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) reached the point of diminishing returns some time ago. One can only repeat fringe rhetoric so many times before it loses its shock value, before it just becomes the sort of thing you’re expected to say.

So when she argued on Sept. 11 — Patriot Day, as some have it — that states should consider secession, it attracted much less attention than similar outbursts she’s offered in the past. But it’s worth considering Greene’s comments less for her argument than for what it doesn’t capture well: the reasons that about 1 in 5 Americans support the concept of secession.

For the representative from Georgia, the putative rationale for secession was the border. President Biden’s policies, she claimed, included a refusal “to stop the invasion of cartel led human and drug trafficking into our country” which meant that “states should consider seceding from the union.” {snip}

Nor does it seem that frustration with the federal government is necessarily what motivates support for secession. Instead, new research from Colby College assistant professor Nicholas F. Jacobs argues that an important factor in support for secession is the division between states.

“Partisan intensity does not do much explanation” in existing support for secession, Jacobs explained in an email. “Rather, it is highly dependent (almost entirely) on whether or not someone really thinks that red and blue states are just different — and different on meaningful dimensions, such as quality of government services, etc.”


“When political divisions take on a territorial dimension,” he writes in the paper (“Seeing Red and Blue”), “foundational attitudes central to maintaining the delicate federal relationship are challenged.

“No longer one country seeking to accommodate diverse peoples, some individuals see many peoples fitting uneasily into one federation, threatening collective decision-making,” he continues. “In the United States, between 20 and 30 percent of Democratic and Republican partisans are willing to express some agreement with secessionist sentiments {snip}”

As part of his research, he asked respondents to evaluate a number of political questions, including three that addressed secession. About 18 percent of respondents agreed with all three proposals, including having states with opposing politics leave the union, having their own state do so or simply agreeing that some division of the country made sense.