Americans are increasingly concerned about political violence – CBS News poll

Amid so much concern that democracy is under threat, Americans also see a growing potential for political violence: nearly two-thirds believe the coming years will bring an increase. And the percentage of people who share this opinion has itself increased even more compared to 2021.

The prospect of violence is linked in part to a perception of growing divisions: as many as 80% of Americans believe the United States is more divided today than it was during their parents’ generation. (And here, older Americans are even more likely to say that, and their parents’ generation would have lived through the upheaval of the ’60s.) Just as many say the tone and civility have deteriorated.

Then, when looking to the future, a majority believe that in a generation the United States will be less democratic than it is today.

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The examination of so-called division and polarization can be done in many ways, of course. The first is to postulate that democracy is partly a question of rights: who has them and to what extent. And in asking questions about the status of rights in America today, we reveal a stark illustration of the fundamental differences between supporters.

For a large majority of Democrats right now, not enough people in America are getting the rights they deserve. Most Republicans disagree. For a majority of Republicans, right now too many people are asking for rights they don’t deserve.

Either way, neither group of supporters thinks the balance is right today.

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Another way to measure is to look at how supporters see themselves today, whether as political opponents – and therefore as people who could conceivably resolve differences through a system – or as than enemies, posing an existential threat that cannot.

About half of supporters see the other side as enemies: 47% of Democrats see Republicans that way, 49% of Republicans see Democrats as such. Of course, not all of them are supporters. Within each self-identified group, ideology and activism play a role. Liberal Democrats are more likely to label Republicans this way than moderate Democrats. Conservative Republicans are more likely than moderates to call Democrats enemies, as are Republicans who say they see themselves as specifically part of the “MAGA movement.”

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So what’s the next step? There isn’t much optimism right now, with only a third saying they are optimistic Americans can come together and work out their differences – however, young people here are far more optimistic than their elders.

Would a greater diversity of groups represented in elected offices improve politics? Although no group or response achieved a majority overall, the most important response was to have more young people elected, followed closely by more women in power; women, in particular, thought it would help.

And we see that Americans largely denounce the idea of ​​violence: 86% say that violence is always unacceptable, and there is no difference between parties or ideologies on this point.

Most people still want unity, in this sense: there is not much support for the (perhaps unrealistic) idea of ​​dividing the country into two nations of “red” states and “blues”.

Opposition comes from a majority of Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, although relatively more Democrats are strongly opposed to the idea of ​​splitting.

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This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 2,085 U.S. adult residents interviewed between August 29 and August 31, 2022. The sample was weighted by gender, age, race, and education based on the US Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as the 2020 presidential election. The margin of error is ±2.6 points.

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