Half of Americans expect civil war 

July 22, 2022 - 17:5

Multiple issues plaguing the United States that could trigger violence on a wider scale have been reflected in new research which found that half of Americans believe a “civil war” will take place “in the next few years.” 

Researchers from the University of California-Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and the California Violence Research Center have revealed that 50.1 percent of respondents to their survey are of the view that a civil war will occur soon. 

According to the developers of the 2022 Life in America survey, 47.8 percent of respondents said they do not believe in the potentially violent scenario unfolding in the U.S.

The shocking number indicating half of Americans believe in a civil war over the next couple of years, will be of grave concern to American officials who have already witnessed the deadly insurrection at the heart of U.S. government and politics in Capitol Hill, Washington DC after protesters raided Congress. 

Around 14 percent of those surveyed responded that they “strongly” or “very strongly” believe a civil war is imminent in their country, while 36 percent said they somewhat agree. 

The research comes as the House select committee investigating the January 6 2021 insurrection by supporters of ex-President Trump held its final hearing of the summer on Thursday. The insurrection left five people dead, including a police officer, and more than 100 officers injured.

Trump watched the violence on television in his White House dining room and failed to take "immediate action in a time of crisis", the investigation has heard. The committee has been told the former president was aiming to stop or delay the congressional certification of Biden's election victory by not intervening.

The committee will reportedly publish its report on what led to the attack on Capital Hill, including the possibility of recommending charges against individuals involved, later this year. 

The former U.S. President has regularly insisted that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen from him. He has engaged in efforts to overturn the results of the vote at the state and federal levels. 

He still maintains widespread support with a recent survey indicating the ex-President would defeat Biden if an election was held today.

The researchers cited five recent domestic issues in the United States as of late that “motivated” the study for the potential outbreak of even greater violence and unrest.

They firstly stated what the study views as a striking rise in violence, especially in firearm violence. From 2019 to 2020, the country witnessed an increase in homicide by 28 percent which was the largest single-year percentage increase ever recorded, according to the researchers.

Among all the violent killings that were officially registered in the year 2019, guns were used in 57.7 percent and that number increased to 62.1 percent in 2020, when 78.9 percent of homicides (19,995 of 25,356) and 52.8 percent of suicides (24,292 of 45,979) involved the use of guns.

The second factor the researchers took into consideration was the related issue of an unprecedented increase in firearm purchases. This huge rise, that grabbed the headlines, began with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020 and (except for a brief respite late in 2021), has continued through to June 2022. 

From January 2020 through June 2022, background checks on firearm purchasers have averaged 46.6 percent above expected levels the research says, which it found to be an estimated 14.5 million extra background checks that have been conducted, of 45.7 million checks altogether. 

That’s a lot of guns currently on the streets of the U.S. and certainly enough ammunition to wage a deadly civil war. The figure is potentially much larger as the number of firearms purchased on the black market is believed to be very high yet the exact amount is unknown, which makes the news all the scarier. 

The third issue that researchers touched on is the growing uncertainty about the stability and value of democracy in the United States. 
According to a Yahoo News-YouGov poll last month, about half of all Americans believed the United States might “cease to be a democracy in the future,”

There are many experts who argue the U.S. is not a democracy in the first place. Nevertheless, most Americans across the political spectrum are said to now perceive a serious threat to “democracy” in the U.S.

More than two-thirds of respondents perceived “a serious threat to our democracy,” and 88.8 percent believed it is very or extremely important “for the United States to remain a democracy” But at the same time, 42.4 percent agreed with the statement that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy”; 19.0 percent agreed strongly or very strongly to the latter. 

At the same time, nearly 70 percent of adults, with very similar results for both parties that dominate U.S. politics - the Democrat and the Republican Party - agree that “American democracy only serves the interests of the wealthy and powerful.”

This is while around 20 percent of Republicans, conservatives, and voters for former U.S. President Donald Trump (and nine percent of Democrats, liberals, and voters for current President Joe Biden) disagree with the statement that “democracy is [the] best form of government.”

The fourth factor the researchers focused on was the increase in American “public opinion of extreme, false beliefs about American society.” Approximately one adult in five endorses the core beliefs of the Q-Anon ideology that “government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles” and (22 percent) that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders” 

This is while nearly one adult in three (32 percent), the research cites, endorses the assertion that “a group of people in this country [is] trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants.”

The fifth factor was the growing support among Americans for the use of violence to achieve political or social goals. 

More than a third (36 percent) of American adults (56 percent of Republicans and 22 percent of Democrats) agree that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” Nearly one-fifth of adults (18 percent) agreed that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

The current research nationwide on the frequency and deciding factor on support for political violence in the U.S. is quite limited the study says. It cites the existing research that has been criticized on multiple grounds, which includes failures to define violence, to determine whether support for political violence reflects support for violence generally, and to determine whether those who endorse political violence are willing to engage in such violence themselves.

It states that there are many important and urgent questions that remain “insufficiently explored”, or unexplored altogether. And poses several important questions, such as how prevalent are support for, and willingness to engage in, political violence when that term is defined? 

“The motivating premises for this survey were that current conditions in the U.S. create both perceived threats and actual threats to its future as a free and democratic society,” the researchers for the study wrote. “The findings bear out both premises.”

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