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Hundreds of Trump supporters gather near the Georgia Capitol Building for a rally in Atlanta, on November 21, 2020. (Photo: Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

'Troubling' Survey Finds Violent, Anti-Democratic Views Thriving on American Right

"I think that we really have to take them seriously as a threat to democracy," a pollster said of the survey's findings regarding Americans who believe violence may be needed "to save the country."

Julia Conley

A nonpartisan research institute raised alarm Monday as it released the results of a poll regarding Americans' political and cultural views, warning that the "Big Lie" that former President Donald Trump won the election and other baseless, extreme right-wing falsehoods have a firm grip on a sizable portion of the U.S. population.
 
According to the 12th annual American Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), about a third of Americans believe Trump was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election and that the election was stolen from him, as the former president and right-wing news sources have claimed for the past year. Two-thirds of Republicans hold this belief, as well as 82% of people who say they trust Fox News more than any other news source—as more than one in five Americans do, according to a 2018 Washington Post survey.

"I've been doing this a while, for decades, and it's not the kind of finding that as a sociologist, a public opinion pollster, that you're used to seeing."

 
Among people who most trust even further right-wing sources including One America News Network (OAN) and Newsmax, 97% believe the election was stolen from Trump.
 
The "Big Lie" and the QAnon conspiracy theory have found a foothold "among those who fear a changing America," said Robert P. Jones, founder and CEO of PRRI, including those who harbor "Christian nationalist sympathies," as 68% of Republicans do according to the poll.
 
Republicans were far more likely than Democrats to tell PRRI that the country's "culture and way of life" has worsened since the 1950s and that the country is "in danger of losing its culture and identity."
 
"Students of history will recognize the dangerous perpetuation of the 'Big Lie' ta stormhat the election was stolen," said Jones in a statement. "These factors have coalesced in a white Christian nationalist ideology that is strengthened by the proliferation of far-right news sources, resulting in an unprecedented willingness by a sizable minority to believe it may be justifiable to threaten, harm, or kill their fellow citizens to restore the perceived status quo.”
 
According to the survey, nearly one in five Americans agreed with the statement, "Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country"—a finding Jones called "troubling." Republicans were nearly three times as likely to agree with this sentiment.
 
Jones told Yahoo News that the response to the question pointed to "significant and rapidly increasing polarization in the United States."
 
"I've been doing this a while, for decades, and it's not the kind of finding that as a sociologist, a public opinion pollster, that you're used to seeing," Jones told the outlet.
 
About the same percentage of respondents said they agree with the statement, put forward by followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, that "there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders."
 
According to the QAnon theory, "the storm" is a major upcoming event in which Trump is set to expose a global sex-trafficking ring run by tDemocratic leaders and Hollywood celebrities who victimize children and worship Satan. The theory also previously held that Trump would be "reinstated" as president on a number of specific dates which came and went, the most recent of which was August 13.
 
Loyalty to the QAnon theory has emerged as a common thread among people who took part in the January 6 insurrection in which Trump supporters stalked Democratic members of Congress and fatally attacked a Capitol police officer.
 
Jones told The Hill that, while "not an alarmist by nature," he was "deeply disturbed" by the survey results.
 
"I think that we really have to take them seriously as a threat to democracy," Jones said.
 
PRRI also asked respondents about their experiences with the U.S. economy, finding that 85% of people agreed with the statement: "The costs of housing and everyday expenses are rising faster than my income."
 
For the first time in the last five years of polling by the institute, a majority of respondents said they believed a college education "is more of a gamble that may not pay off in the end, rather than a smart investment in the future." The response comes amid widespread calls for the Biden administration to use executive authority to cancel student debt.
 
"Americans are feeling the economic crunches and they don't just see it as a result of the pandemic," Jones told The Hill. "That doesn't help turn the flame down on these cultural conflicts, it exacerbates them. If people are feeling like the pie is too small and it's a zero-sum game, that's not a great place for political compromise or finding common ground."

 


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