A new report from the University of Chicago highlights that millions of Americans believe it is justified to commit acts of violence in former President Donald Trump’s name.
The university’s Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) conducted a survey in collaboration with the National Opinion Research Center between the dates of September 9-12. Respondents were asked to share their views on myriad issues relating to political violence and events in the recent past.
One of the questions the poll posed was whether or not the 2020 presidential election was legitimate. More than one-fifth of those surveyed (22 percent) agreed with the errant notion that the election was “stolen” from Trump, and that Biden is not the rightful president, while 59 percent of respondents disagreed. The poll also asked about respondents’ views of the people who attacked the Capitol on January 6, finding that 1 in 10 Americans agreed with describing them as “patriots,” while 64 percent disagreed.
Thirteen percent of respondents — or more than one in eight Americans — said that the use of force by citizens “is sometimes necessary to achieve political goals that I support.”
The poll also found that 5 percent of adults in the U.S. believe that violence, in order to reinstate Trump to the White House, would be justified. That rate is equal to 1 in 20 American adults, or around 13 million Americans overall.
The same rate answered affirmatively to the question when a caveat was added that such a coup would result in some people being injured or killed.
When the poll asked if the use of violence would be justified to prevent the Department of Justice from charging Trump over his mishandling of government documents, 7 percent of respondents said that it would be, representing around 15 million adults in the U.S.
The poll also found that an alarming number of Americans believe in conspiracy theories pushed by far right white nationalists. More than one in five Americans (21 percent) believe that Democrats are trying to flood the electorate with “more obedient voters from the Third World,” and 18 percent of adults in the U.S. think that non-white Americans “will eventually have more rights” than white people — ideas that are propagated by the “Great Replacement Theory,” a fabrication pushed by white nationalists purporting that global elites are trying to lessen white populations in countries where the majority has historically been white.
Adherents of the “Great Replacement Theory” have frequently engaged in violence. The bogus theory was cited by participants at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, when right-wing extremists engaged in violence against counterprotesters, culminating in the murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer. The tenets of the “Great Replacement Theory” were also cited by a mass shooter who murdered 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, earlier this year.
Robert Pape, the director of CPOST, discussed the survey’s results and the meaning of the data earlier this month on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.
“We have not just a political threat to our democracy, we have a violent threat to our democracy,” he said. “Today, there are millions of individuals who don’t just think the election was stolen in 2020; they support violence to restore Donald Trump to the White House.”
Others have noted that Trump loyalists have warned that there will be violence if he’s ever arrested.
“If there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information…there will be riots in the street,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said late last month.
“The rhetoric [from Graham] seemed to straddle the line between warning and threat,” Steve Benen, a producer and blogger for MSNBC, wrote in response. “‘Let Trump get away with crimes,’ the senator seemed to suggest, ‘or his followers will turn violent.'”