Views of democracy and society and support for political violence in the USA: findings from a nationally representative survey
Injury Epidemiology volume 10, Article number: 45 (2023)
Current conditions in the USA suggest an increasing risk for political violence. Little is known about the prevalence of beliefs that might lead to political violence, about support for and personal willingness to engage in political violence, and about how those measures vary with individual characteristics, lethality of violence, political objectives that violence might advance, or specific populations as targets.
This cross-sectional US nationally representative survey was conducted on May 13 to June 2, 2022, of adult members of the Ipsos KnowledgePanel. Outcomes are weighted, population-representative proportions of respondents endorsing selected beliefs about American democracy and society and violence to advance political objectives.
The analytic sample included 8620 respondents; 50.5% (95% confidence interval (CI) 49.3%, 51.7%) were female; and weighted mean (± standard deviation) age was 48.4 (± 18.0) years. Nearly 1 in 5 (18.9%, 95% CI 18.0%, 19.9%) agreed strongly or very strongly that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy”; 16.2% (95% CI 15.3%, 17.1%) agreed strongly or very strongly that “in America, native-born white people are being replaced by immigrants,” and 13.7% (95% CI 12.9%, 14.6%) agreed strongly or very strongly that “in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States.” One-third of respondents (32.8%, 95% CI 31.7%, 33.9%) considered violence to be usually or always justified to advance at least 1 of 17 specific political objectives. Among all respondents, 7.7% (95% CI 7.0%, 8.4%) thought it very or extremely likely that within the next few years, in a situation where they believe political violence is justified, “I will be armed with a gun”; 1.1% (95% CI 0.9%, 1.4%) thought it very or extremely likely that “I will shoot someone with a gun.” Support for political violence and for the use of firearms in such violence frequently declined with increasing age, education, and income.
Small but concerning proportions of the population consider violence, including lethal violence, to be usually or always justified to advance political objectives. Prevention efforts should proceed urgently based on the best evidence available.
Recent events in the USA—mass shootings, violence, and threats of violence against elected and other government officials, the January 2021 assault on the Capitol, and others—have reminded Americans of the presence of violence in their nation’s public and political life. This study is motivated by 5 conditions that, in their apparent convergence (Wintemute 2021), create the potential for even greater violence that could put at risk the future of the USA as a free and democratic society.
First is a striking rise in violence, and particularly in firearm violence. The 28% increase in homicide from 2019 to 2020 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2023) was the largest single-year percentage increase ever recorded. By 2021, firearms accounted for 63.7% of violent deaths in the USA: 80.5% of homicides (20,958 of 26,031) and 54.6% of suicides (26,328 of 48,183) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2023).
Second is an equally unprecedented increase in firearm purchasing that began with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020 and, except for a brief respite late in 2021, has continued through July 2023 (Wintemute 2021; Federal Bureau of Investigation 2023). From January 2020 through July 2023, background checks on firearm purchasers have averaged 37.5% above expected levels (Additional file 1: Figure S1); an estimated 16.8 million excess background checks have been conducted, of 61.6 million checks altogether.
Third is uncertainty about the stability and value of democracy in the USA. Most Americans across the political spectrum now perceive a serious threat to democracy in the USA (NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll 2021; Grinnell College National Poll 2021). At the same time, nearly 70% of adults—with very similar results for Democrats and Republicans—agree that “American democracy only serves the interests of the wealthy and powerful” (Cox 2021). Approximately 20% of Republicans, conservatives, and voters for Donald Trump (and 9% of Democrats, liberals, and voters for Joe Biden) disagree with the statement that “democracy is [the] best form of government” (The Economist/YouGov Poll 2021).
Fourth is the expansion into the mainstream of American public opinion of extreme, false beliefs about American society. Approximately 1 adult in 5 endorses the core elements of the QAnon belief complex: that the “government, media, and financial worlds in the US are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles” (16%) and that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders” (22%) (Public Religion Research Institute 2022). Nearly 1 adult in 3 (32%) endorses the great replacement assertion that “a group of people in this country [is] trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants.” (Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research 2022).
Fifth is concerningly broad support for political violence: the use of physical force or violence to advance political objectives (Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project 2019). More than a third (36%) of American adults (56% of Republicans and 22% of Democrats) agree that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it” (Cox 2021). Nearly one-fifth of adults (18%) agree that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” (Public Religion Research Institute 2022).
Research on the prevalence and determinants of support for political violence in the USA is sparse (Kleinfeld 2021; Kalmoe and Mason 2022; Bright Line Watch 2020, 2021; Westwood et al. 2022). Existing work has been criticized on multiple grounds, including failures to define violence, to determine whether support for political violence reflects support for violence generally, and to determine whether persons who endorse political violence are willing to engage in such violence themselves (Bright Line Watch 2021; Westwood et al. 2022).
Many important and urgent questions remain insufficiently explored, or unexplored altogether. Does support for political violence reflect a general predisposition to violence as a means of solving problems? How prevalent are support for, and willingness to engage in, political violence when that term is defined? How do those prevalences vary with individual sociodemographic characteristics, with specific political objectives for which violence might be employed, with the lethality of that violence, and with its target? What other individual characteristics (e.g., extreme political and social beliefs, firearm ownership) and community characteristics are associated with support for political violence? What specific preparations for political violence have its supporters made?
We conducted the 2022 Life in America survey to answer these and related questions with data from a large nationally representative sample, augmented by oversamples for populations of particular importance, and a series of papers is planned to cover specific topics of interest. This report outlines the study’s overall methods and presents descriptive tabulations of data from the main study sample on measures of respondents’ political and social beliefs, their support for and willingness to engage in political violence, and variation in those measures with respondents’ key sociodemographic characteristics.
Data for this cross-sectional survey study are from the 2022 Life in America Survey, which was designed by the authors and administered online in English and Spanish from May 13 to June 2, 2022, by the survey research firm Ipsos (Ipsos 2023). Before participants accessed the questionnaire, they were provided informed consent language that concluded, “[by] continuing, you are agreeing to participate in this study.” The study is reported following American Association for Public Opinion Research guidelines (American Association for Public Opinion Research 2021).
Respondents were drawn from the Ipsos KnowledgePanel, an online research panel that has been widely used in population-based research, including studies of violence and firearm ownership (Kravitz-Wirtz et al. 2021; Wintemute et al. 2022c; Schleimer et al. 2020; Miller et al. 2022; Miller and Azrael 2022; Salhi et al. 2019). To establish a nationally representative panel, members are recruited on an ongoing basis through address-based probability sampling using data from the US Postal Service’s Delivery Sequence File (Ipsos 2015). Recruited adults in households without internet access are provided a web-enabled device and free internet service, and a modest, primarily points-based incentive program seeks to encourage participation and promote participants’ retention in KnowledgePanel over time.
A probability-proportional-to-size procedure was used to select a study-specific sample. All panel members who were aged 18 years and older were eligible for selection. Invitations were sent by e-mail; automatic reminders were delivered to non-respondents by e-mail and telephone beginning 3 days later.
A final survey weight variable provided by Ipsos adjusted for the initial probability of selection into KnowledgePanel and for survey-specific non-response and over- or under-coverage using design weights with post-stratification raking ratio adjustments. With weighting, the sample is designed to be statistically representative of the non-institutionalized adult population of the USA as reflected in the 2021 March supplement of the Current Population Survey (Ipsos 2015).
Sociodemographic data were collected by Ipsos from profiles created and maintained by KnowledgePanel members. Survey questions that supplied data for this analysis covered 3 broad domains: beliefs regarding democracy and the potential for violence in the USA; beliefs regarding American society and institutions; and support for and willingness to engage in violence, including political violence. Prior surveys on these topics were reviewed, and selected questions were included or adapted in this questionnaire to track trends in opinion and provide context for responses to questions that had not been asked previously.
Our primary outcome measures concerned political and non-political violence. Violence was represented by the phrase “force or violence,” defined in the questionnaire as “physical force strong enough that it could cause pain or injury to a person.” “Force or violence to advance an important political objective that you support” was used in questions about respondents’ support for and willingness to engage in political violence.
Respondents were asked about the extent to which they considered political violence to be justified “in general” and then about justification for its use to advance specified political objectives. Examples include “to return Donald Trump to the presidency this year,” “to preserve an American way of life based on Western European traditions,” and “to stop police violence” (see Additional file 1 and Tables 6, 7). There were 17 specified objectives. Nine were presented to all respondents, and 8 were paired, with each respondent seeing only 1 item from each pair; each respondent was presented with 13 of 17 objectives.
Respondents who considered political violence to be at least sometimes justified for at least 1 of these specified objectives were asked about their personal willingness to engage in political violence: by type of violence (to “damage property,” “threaten or intimidate a person,” “injure a person,” “kill a person”) and by target population (examples: “an elected federal or state government official,” “a police officer,” “a person who does not share your religion”) (see Additional file 1 and Tables 8, 9).
All respondents were asked about the likelihood of their future use of firearms in a situation where they consider political violence to be justified (e.g., “I will be armed with a gun,” “I will shoot someone with a gun”) (see Additional file 1 and Table 10).
The full text of all questions reported on here, including sources for questions from prior surveys, is in the Additional file 1.
Ipsos translated the questionnaire into Spanish, and interpreting services staff at UC Davis Medical Center reviewed the translation. Forty KnowledgePanel members participated in a pretest of the English language version that was administered April 27 to May 2, 2022.
Respondents were randomized 1:1 to receive response options in order from either negative to positive valence (e.g., from “do not agree” to “strongly agree”) or the reverse throughout the questionnaire. Where a question presented multiple statements for respondents to consider, the order in which those statements were presented was randomized unless ordering was necessary. Logic-driving questions (those to which responses might invoke a skip pattern) included non-response prompts.
To minimize inattentive responses, questions regarding political violence were immediately preceded by a question about the justifiability of the use of force or violence in 7 non-political situations. These situations were presented in a fixed order that, in the judgment of the authors, proceeded from more likely to less likely to be seen by respondents as justifying violence: from “in self-defense” to “to get respect” (see Additional file 1 and Fig. 1). This was done to create an expected response transition from support to nonsupport for violence that respondents would need to reverse to indicate support for political violence.
We employed unipolar response arrays without a neutral midpoint (e.g., do not agree, somewhat agree, strongly agree, very strongly agree). The literature is not in agreement on whether such midpoints should be included (Westwood et al. 2022; Chyung et al. 2017). We were persuaded by the studies reviewed by Chyung et al. (2017), which suggest that such midpoints allow respondents to choose “a minimally acceptable response as soon as it is found, instead of putting effort to find an optimal response,” a behavior known as satisficing. According to those authors, satisficing is particularly common when respondents are uncomfortable with the topics of the survey or under social desirability pressures, and both conditions apply here. Our analyses focus on responses above the “somewhat” or “sometimes” level to minimize the impact of potential satisficing on the results.
To generate prevalence estimates, we calculated weighted percentages and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using PROC SURVEYFREQ in SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute, Inc., Cary, NC) and Complex Samples Frequencies in IBM SPSS Statistics, version 28 (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY). Estimated counts of adults in the USA were generated by simple extrapolation from the population-representative results, multiplying weighted percentages and their confidence intervals from our sample by the estimated adult population of the USA as of July 1, 2021 (258.33 million persons) (United States Census Bureau 2022).
We calculated prevalence estimates and their 95% CIs within categories of age, gender, race and ethnicity, education, income, and census region using the methods mentioned above. For dichotomous and ordinal variables, we generated Spearman correlations between demographic characteristics and response options.
Of 15,449 panel members invited to participate as part of the main study sample, 8620 completed the survey, yielding a 55.8% completion rate. The median survey completion time was 15.7 min (Interquartile Range, 11.4–23.0). Item non-response ranged from 0.3 to 2.3%.
Half of the respondents (50.5%, 95% CI 49.3%, 51.7%) were female; 62.6% (95% CI 61.4%, 63.9%) were white, non-Hispanic (Table 1). The weighted mean (SD) respondent age was 48.4 (18.0) years. Compared to non-respondents, respondents were older and more frequently white, non-Hispanic; were more often married; had higher education and income; and were less likely to be working (Table S1).
Democracy and the potential for violence
Two-thirds of the respondents (67.2%, 95% CI 66.1%, 68.4%) perceived “a serious threat to our democracy,” and 88.9% (95% CI 88.0%, 89.7%) believed it is very or extremely important “for the United States to remain a democracy” (Table 2). At the same time, nearly 1 respondent in 5 (18.9%, 95% CI 18.0%, 19.9%) agreed strongly or very strongly that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy.” Separately, nearly 1 in 5 (18.4%, 95% CI 17.5%, 19.3%) agreed strongly or very strongly with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.”
Substantial proportions of respondents agreed strongly or very strongly with each of 3 statements about potential conditions in the USA justifying force or violence (Table 3): to “protect American democracy” if “elected leaders will not” (18.7%, 95% CI 17.8%, 19.7%); to save “our American way of life,” which is “disappearing” (16.1%, 95% CI 15.2%, 17.0%); and to “save our country” (a job for “true American patriots”) because “things have gotten so far off track” (8.1%, 95% CI 7.5%, 8.8%). Approximately 1 respondent in 7 (13.7%, 95% CI 12.9%, 14.6%) agreed strongly or very strongly that “in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States” (Table 3).
American society and institutions
Five items explored beliefs on race and ethnicity and the great replacement assertion (Table 4). Nearly a third (31.8%, 95% CI, 30.7%, 32.9%) of respondents disagreed with the statement that “white people benefit from advantages in society that Black people do not have,” and 40.2% (95% CI, 39.0%, 41.3%) did not agree that “straight white men hold far too much power in America.” More than 1 in 4 (27.2%, 95% CI 26.1%, 28.2%) agreed strongly or very strongly that “discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against Blacks and other minorities.” Nearly 1 in 5 (18.6%, 95% CI 17.7%, 19.5%) disagreed with the statement that “having more Black Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans is good for the country,” and 16.2% (95% CI 15.3%, 17.1%) agreed strongly or very strongly with the proposition that “in America, native-born white people are being replaced by immigrants.”
Three items addressed the central elements of QAnon mythology and other beliefs (Table 5). Nearly 1 in 10 respondents (9.1%, 95% CI 8.3%, 9.8%) agreed strongly or very strongly that US institutions are “controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” and 10.0% (95% CI 9.3%, 10.8%) agreed strongly or very strongly that “a storm coming soon” will “sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.” About 1 in 5 (19.3%, 95% CI 18.3%, 20.3%) agreed strongly or very strongly that “we are living in what the Bible calls ‘the end times.’.”
As expected, respondents’ views on the justifiability of non-political violence varied substantially with circumstance (Fig. 1). Large majorities of respondents saw violence as usually or always justified in self-defense (76.1%, 95% CI 75.0%, 77.1%), or to prevent assaultive injury to others (77.9%, 95% CI 76.9%, 78.9%), and most considered it usually or always justified to prevent self-inflicted injury (59.2%, 95% CI 58.0%, 60.4%). Conversely, large majorities reported that violence was never justified to win an argument (85.7%, 95% CI 84.7%, 86.5%), respond to an insult (81.5%, 95% CI 80.5%, 82.5%), or get respect (86.2%, 95% CI 85.2%, 87.0%).
Only 3.0% (95% CI 2.6%, 3.6%) considered political violence to be usually or always justified “in general” (Table 6, Fig. 1). In most cases, slightly larger proportions of respondents considered violence to be usually or always justified to advance each of 17 specific political objectives considered individually (Tables 6, 7). Among those 17 objectives, support was most common for violence “to preserve an American way of life I believe in” (12.1%; 95% CI, 11.3%, 12.9%).
A third of respondents (32.8%, 95% CI 31.7%, 33.9%) considered violence to be usually or always justified to advance at least 1 of the 17 specific political objectives. Among these respondents, most (58.0%, 95% CI 55.9%, 60.1%) thought that violence was usually or always justified for 6 or more specific objectives (Additional file 1: Table S2).
Respondents who considered political violence at least somewhat justified to advance any of the 17 specific objectives were presented 2 series of items regarding their personal willingness to use force or violence “in a situation where you think force or violence is justified to advance an important political objective.” The first (Table 8) concerned types of violence: 3.1% of respondents (95% CI 2.6%, 3.5%) were very or completely willing to use force or violence “to damage property,” 2.2% (95% CI 1.8%, 2.6%) “to threaten or intimidate a person,” 2.2% (95% CI 1.8%, 2.6%) “to injure a person,” and 2.1% (95% CI 1.8%, 2.5%) “to kill a person.”
The second series (Table 9) concerned categories of people as potential targets of such violence, based on their occupations, personal beliefs, or race and ethnicity. When asked, again in a situation where they thought political violence was justified, “how willing would you personally be to use force or violence against a person because they are…,” between 1.4 and 2.3% of respondents were very or completely willing to commit violence against members of these specified populations.
Finally, all respondents, regardless of their position on political violence or firearm ownership status, were asked to predict the likelihood of their future use of a firearm “in a situation where you think force or violence is justified to advance an important political objective”; 7.7% (95% CI 7.0%, 8.4%) thought it very or extremely likely that “I will be armed with a gun,” 4.1% (95% CI 3.6%, 4.7%) that “I will carry a gun openly, so that people know I am armed,” 1.0% (95% CI 0.7%, 1.3%) that “I will threaten someone with a gun,” and 1.1% (95% CI 0.9%, 1.4%) that “I will shoot someone with a gun” (Table 10).
Variation with sociodemographic characteristics
Bivariate variation on all measures with respondents’ age, gender, race and ethnicity, education, income, and region of residence is presented in detail in Additional file 1: Tables S3–S12 and summarized graphically (Additional file 1: Figure S2) for age, gender, education, and income. Support for violence as potentially justified by conditions in the USA and for political violence reliably decreased as education and income increased and frequently decreased with increasing age. Associations with gender, race and ethnicity, and region of residence were variable.
The motivating premises for this survey were that current conditions in the USA create both perceived and actual threats to its future as a free and democratic society. The findings bear out both premises. As to the former, more than two-thirds of respondents perceived “a serious threat to our democracy”; 1 in 7 strongly or very strongly agreed that there will be civil war in the next few years. As to the latter, 10% thought it only somewhat important or not important for the USA to remain a democracy; nearly 20% strongly or very strongly agreed that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy”; and 3% believed that, in general, political violence was usually or always justified.
Many findings from this survey are concordant with those of polls taken over the last 2 years (NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll 2021; Grinnell College National Poll 2021; Romano 2022; Cox 2021; The Economist/YouGov Poll 2021; Public Religion Research Institute 2022; Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research 2022; Survey Center on American Life 2021; Zogby 2021; Pew Research Center 2019; IFYC – PRRI 2021). These include support by substantial proportions of the population for broad statements of the potential need for violence to save a society perceived as heading in the wrong direction and for false beliefs, such as the QAnon complex, great replacement thinking, and the myth that Donald Trump won the 2020 Presidential election. This concordance demonstrates the stability of the findings from the earlier work and provides a foundation for the new results presented here.
Our population-level extrapolations (some based on small numbers and therefore to be interpreted with caution (Hemenway 1997)) suggest that nearly 8 million adults in the USA consider violence to be usually or always justified “in general” to advance political objectives that they support.
These are not abstract beliefs, made without commitment. Our extrapolations also suggest that millions of Americans would be very or completely willing to engage in violence themselves to advance a political objective that they support; between 5 and 6 million people would threaten or intimidate someone, injure them, or kill them.
For many, future situations in which they consider political violence to be justified might call for the use of firearms. We estimate that nearly 20 million Americans think it very or extremely likely that they will be armed in such a situation in the next few years, nearly 11 million that they will carry a gun openly, and nearly 3 million that they will shoot someone. (Given the actual incidence of firearm violence in the USA (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2023), we believe it is obvious that the vast majority of those contemplated shootings will never occur.)
In the aggregate, these initial findings suggest a continuing alienation from and mistrust of American democratic society and its institutions, founded in part on false beliefs. They suggest a concerning level of support for violence, including lethal violence, to advance political objectives; this likely increases the risk of large-scale political violence in the near future (Walter 2022). There is important variation with demographic characteristics, and other analyses from this survey suggest that support for political violence may vary substantially with political party affiliation and political ideology (Wintemute et al. 2022a, b). Forthcoming analyses will shed light on additional factors associated with that support and inform efforts to prevent the risk of political violence from being realized.
It is important to emphasize that these findings also provide firm ground for hope. A large majority of respondents rejected political violence altogether, whether generally or to advance any single political objective, and most of those who did endorse political violence in the abstract were unwilling to resort to violence themselves. The challenge now for those large majorities is to recognize the threat posed by those who are willing to engage in political violence and respond adequately to it.
Several technical limitations exist. The findings are cross-sectional and subject to sampling error and non-response bias; this is particularly applicable to our findings related to age, education, and income, as respondents and non-respondents differed on these measures. Many important outcomes are uncommon, with response counts < 100 and weighted prevalences below 5%. The large study sample and small prevalence estimates result in relatively narrow confidence intervals in these cases, but the estimates remain vulnerable to bias from sources such as inattentive or strategic responses. That vulnerability is increased in the national estimates based on extrapolation. Widely publicized mass shootings occurred in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, TX, while the survey was in the field. The Buffalo shooting is understood to have been a race-related hate crime motivated by great replacement thinking and may have affected respondents’ views on race, violence, and that particular belief. Russia’s war against Ukraine may have influenced responses on violence and democracy.
Follow-up studies are in development to explore the meaning and implications of the findings presented here. For example, does a respondent who expects civil war view that war positively or negatively? Similarly, this survey did not solicit specific information on what gives rise to support for political violence, or on how that support or its causes might best be addressed in prevention efforts.
Findings from this large, nationally representative survey suggest that concerning proportions of the US population currently support violence, including lethal violence, to advance political objectives. Support varies with demographic characteristics. Efforts to prevent that violence should proceed rapidly based on the best evidence available, while further research identifies factors associated with support for political violence and informs future prevention efforts.
Availability of data and materials
The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available as analyses are continuing but will be made available to qualified researchers subject to the terms of a data use agreement.
American Association for Public Opinion Research. Code of professional ethics and practices. 2021. https://www.aapor.org/Standards-Ethics/AAPOR-Code-of-Ethics.aspx.
Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. ACLED Definitions of Political Violence and Protest. 2019. https://acleddata.com/acleddatanew/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/ACLED_Event-Definitions_v1_April-2019.pdf.
Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Immigration attitudes and conspiratorial thinkers. 2022. https://apnorc.org/projects/immigration-attitudes-and-conspiratorial-thinkers/.
Bright Line Watch. American democracy on the eve of the 2020 election. 2020. http://brightlinewatch.org/american-democracy-on-the-eve-of-the-2020-election/. Accessed 29 Dec 2021.
Bright Line Watch. Tempered expectations and hardened divisions a year into the Biden presidency. 2021. http://brightlinewatch.org/tempered-expectations-and-hardened-divisions-a-year-into-the-biden-presidency/. Accessed 29 Dec 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS. https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html. Accessed 11 June 2023.
Chyung SY, Roberts K, Swanson I, Hankinson A. Evidence-based survey design: the use of a midpoint on the Likert scale. Perform Improv. 2017;56(10):15–23.
Cox DA. After the ballots are counted: conspiracies, political violence, and American exceptionalism: findings from the January 2021 American Perspectives Survey. American Enterprise Institute, Survey Center on American Life. 2021. https://www.americansurveycenter.org/research/after-the-ballots-are-counted-conspiracies-political-violence-and-american-exceptionalism/.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS): NICS firearm checks: month/year by state/type; 2023. https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/nics.
Grinnell College National Poll. 52% of Americans believe democracy facing “major threat.” Study #2243. 2021. https://www.grinnell.edu/news/52-americans-believe-democracy-facing-major-threat.
Hemenway D. Survey research and self-defense gun use: an explanation of extreme overestimates. J Crim Law Criminol. 1997;87(4):1430–45.
IFYC – PRRI Survey on Religion & COVID-19 Vaccine Trust. 2021. https://www.prri.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Topline-IFYC-PRRI-Survey-on-Religion-and-COVID-19-Vaccine-Trust-v2_final.pdf.
Ipsos. KnowledgePanel®: a methodological overview. 2015. https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ipsosknowledgepanelmethodology.pdf.
Ipsos. 2023. https://www.ipsos.com/en.
Kalmoe NP, Mason L. Radical American partisanship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2022.
Kleinfeld R. The rise of political violence in the United States. J Democr. 2021;32(4):160–76.
Kravitz-Wirtz N, Aubel A, Schleimer J, Pallin R, Wintemute G. Public concern about violence, firearms, and the COVID-19 pandemic in California. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(1): e2033484.
Miller M, Azrael D. Firearm storage in US households with children: findings from the 2021 National Firearm Survey. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(2): e2148823.
Miller M, Zhang W, Azrael D. Firearm purchasing during the covid-19 pandemic: results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey. Ann Intern Med. 2022;175(2):219–25.
NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll. Trust in elections, threat to democracy, November 2021. 2021. https://maristpoll.marist.edu/polls/npr-pbs-newshour-marist-national-poll-trust-in-elections-threat-to-democracy-biden-approval-november-2021/.
Pew Research Center. Americans see advantages and challenges in country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity. 2019. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2019/05/08/americans-see-advantages-and-challenges-in-countrys-growing-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/.
Public Religion Research Institute. The persistence of QAnon in the post-Trump era: an analysis of who believes the conspiracies. 2022. https://www.prri.org/research/the-persistence-of-qanon-in-the-post-trump-era-an-analysis-of-who-believes-the-conspiracies/.
Romano A. Poll: 61% of Trump voters agree with idea behind ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory. 2022. https://news.yahoo.com/hed-poll-61-of-trump-voters-agree-with-idea-behind-great-replacement-conspiracy-theory-090004062.html.
Salhi C, Azrael D, Miller M. Patterns of gun owner beliefs about firearm risk in relation to firearm storage: a latent class analysis using the 2019 National Firearms Survey. Inj Prev. 2020;injuryprev-2019-043624.
Schleimer J, Kravitz-Wirtz N, Pallin R, Charbonneau A, Buggs S, Wintemute G. Firearm ownership in California: a latent class analysis. Inj Prev. 2020;26(5):456–62.
Survey Center on American Life. January 2021 American Perspectives Survey topline questionnaire. https://www.americansurveycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/January-2021-APS-Topline-Questionnaire.pdf.
The Economist/YouGov Poll June 13–15, 2021–1500 U.S. adult citizens. 2021. https://docs.cdn.yougov.com/uagnfc262c/econTabReport.pdf.
United States Census Bureau. National population by characteristics: 2020–2021. 2022. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/popest/2020s-national-detail.html.
Walter BF. How civil wars start and how to stop them. New York: Crown; 2022.
Westwood SJ, Grimmer J, Tyler M, Nall C. Current research overstates American support for political violence. PNAS. 2022;119(12): e2116870119.
Wintemute GJ. Guns, violence, politics: the gyre widens. Inj Epidemiol. 2021;2(8):64. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40621-021-00357-3.
Wintemute GJ, Crawford A, Robinson A, Schleimer JP, Tomsich EA, Pear VA. Party affiliation, political ideology, views of American democracy and society, and support for political violence: findings from a nationwide population-representative survey. SocArXiv. 2022a. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/n9b36.
Wintemute GJ, Robinson R, Tomsich EA. MAGA Republicans’ views of American democracy and society and support for political violence: findings from a nationwide population-representative survey. SocArXiv. 2022b. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/q9ect.
Wintemute GJ, Aubel AJ, Pallin RS, Schleimer JP, Kravitz-Wirtz N. Experiences of violence in daily life among adults in California: a population-representative survey. Inj Epidemiol. 2022c;3(9):1. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40621-021-00367-1.
Zogby. Will the US have another civil war? 2021. https://zogbyanalytics.com/news/997-the-zogby-poll-will-the-us-have-another-civil-war.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Amanda Aubel, MPH; Deborah Azrael, PhD; Amy Barnhorst, MD; Angela Bayer, PhD, MHS; Vicka Chaplin, MPH, MA; Pamela Keach, MS; Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, PhD, MPH; Julia J. Lund, MPH; Christopher D. McCort, MS; Matthew Miller, MD, ScD; and Rocco Pallin, MPH.
This work was supported by grants from the Joyce Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation, and by the California Firearm Violence Research Center and UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. External funders played no role in the design of the study; the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; or writing of the manuscript.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
This study was approved by the University of California Davis Institutional Review Board. The University of California, Davis, in accordance with its FWA with the Department of Health & Human Services, adheres to all federal and state regulations related to the protection of human research subjects, including 45 CFR 46 (“The Common Rule”), 21 CFR 50, 21 CFR 56 for FDA regulated products, and the principles of The Belmont Report and Institutional policies and procedures. In addition, the International Conference on Harmonization, Good Clinical Practice (ICH GCP) principles are adhered to insofar as they parallel the previously mentioned regulations and policies. Introductory text to the questionnaire as seen by participants included this statement: As with all KnowledgePanel surveys, your participation is entirely voluntary, and your responses will be kept confidential and anonymous. You will not be individually identified, and your de-identified responses will only be used for qualified research purposes. You may skip any question at any time. If you have any questions about this survey, you may contact the research team by calling (916) 734-3539. This study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of California, Davis. If you have any questions about your rights as a participant in this study, you may contact the University of California, Davis, Institutional Review Board at (916) 703-9151. If you have questions about your rights as a research subject or are dissatisfied at any time with any aspect of the survey, you may also contact KnowledgePanel panel member support at (800) 782-6899. By continuing, you are agreeing to participate in this study.
Consent for publication
The authors have no competing interests to report.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Wintemute, G.J., Robinson, S.L., Crawford, A. et al. Views of democracy and society and support for political violence in the USA: findings from a nationally representative survey. Inj. Epidemiol. 10, 45 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40621-023-00456-3