Every third American – the largest number in more than two decades – believes violence against the government can be justified, especially when the violation of rights is involved, a new poll has found.
According to a Washington Post and University of Maryland poll, 34% of respondents were prepared to justify violent action – up from 23% in 2015 and only 16% in 2011. The number of those who said violence was “never justified” dropped significantly to 62% from 76% in 2011.
Among those prepared to accept violence, the most cited justifications were circumstances in which the US government “violates or takes away rights or freedoms” or “oppresses people” (22%). In the event that the country is “no longer a democracy,” “becomes a dictatorship” or experiences a military coup, 15% said violence would be justified.
“People’s reasoning for what they considered acceptable violence against the government varied, from what they considered to be overreaching coronavirus restrictions, to the disenfranchisement of minority voters, to the oppression of Americans,” the Washington Post explained. It added that responses to an open-ended question about hypothetical justifications included “autocracy,” “tyranny,” and “corruption.”
Despite an increase in people seemingly condoning violence, more than half of the 1101 respondents (51%) said they believed the legal punishments for people who broke into the Capitol building in Washington on January 6 last year have not been harsh enough. Just 19% thought they were too harsh and 28% said they were fair.