One in five Americans think political violence is justified, according to a study. Many people say they would trade democracy for a strong leader if there was a civil war.

Rachel Kleinfeld is a political violence expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who was not involved in the research. It shouldn't be boring.

Between 2010 and 2020, the number of firearm deaths in the United States increased by over 40%. Garen Wintemute wondered what those trends meant for civil unrest. Being an emergency room doctor is like being a bowman on the Titanic.

More than 8600 adults in English and Spanish were surveyed about their views on democracy, race, and political violence. The respondents were part of an online research panel that was used to conduct research on violence and firearm ownership. The results of the survey were applied to the whole country.

A strong leader is more important than the United States remaining a democracy, according to 40% of respondents. Half of the people think there will be a civil war in the US in the next few years. The survey didn't say when. Half of the country is expecting a civil war. Many people expect to participate. In a situation where they think violence is justified to advance a political goal, about one in five respondents think they will be armed with a gun. Some people said they would kill a person in that situation.

Kleinfeld says the study's findings are compelling because of the large number of participants and because it asked about specific scenarios in which participants think violence is justified. She says the sample overrepresents older people who are not known to commit a lot of violence. The fact that you are still getting these high numbers is worrying.

She doesn't think that the shaky support for democracy is a big deal. She says that the meaning of democracy is fuzzy. She says that political paralysis can lead to people saying they want a strong man in leadership.

Kurt Braddock, who studies the psychology of extremists at American University, said in an email that the findings are scary but not surprising. He says that the United States has seen an increase in individual willingness to engage in violence in the last few years.

The sampling and survey methodology used in previous studies has been criticized by researchers. Kleinfeld says the new study agrees with previous efforts. More than one-third of Americans agree that the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it, according to a survey from the year 2021. Barbara Walter is a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego. She thinks the survey responses overstated the number of Americans who would be willing to use violence. The numbers are usually shocking, but they are probably not true.

Conspiracy theories that are racist are helping shape views about political violence. Roughly two in five adults agree with the idea that native-born white voters are being replaced by immigrants for electoral gains, according to a survey. One in five respondents thought that the U.S. institutions were controlled by Satan. According to Walter, the belief in conspiracy theories might explain some of the people's views on democracy and political violence.

The new study responses should be broken down by partisan affiliation because previous surveys show that right-leaning people are more likely to engage in violence. That is one of the key oversights. We need to know if civil war readiness comes from one side or the other. Wintemute's group is working on follow-up analyses of the survey to look at other political affiliations and will launch a follow-up survey with the same group of respondents by the end.

To reduce the threat of political violence, the first step is to call out the misinformation online and in right-wing media. Before we can address the problems it is causing, we need to know what it is. Walter says that regulating social media could help. According to Kleinfeld, leaders can make a difference. Courageous leaders can deter their communities from being violent. Kleinfeld says that now is the time to take this seriously and not let it go to waste.