As Independence Day approaches, more than one in four Americans are so alienated from their government that they believe it may “soon be necessary to take up arms” against it, according to a new poll released Thursday by the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics (IOP).
That startling finding, which comes in the midst of congressional hearings into the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, was just one of several reflections of the dangerous level of estrangement many Americans feel from each other and our democratic institutions.
The survey of 1,000 registered voters, conducted last month by Republican pollster Neil Newhouse and Democratic pollster Joel Benenson with input from students at the IOP, was designed to probe polarization and its relationship to the news sources upon which Americans rely in a fractionated media environment.
The portrait that it paints reveals not only the growing divides we have witnessed in recent years but strong sentiments that the majority of media outlets contribute to these divisions by intentionally misleading their audiences to promote a political point of view.
Among the poll’s findings:
» A majority of Americans agree that the government is “corrupt and rigged against everyday people like me,” including 73 percent of voters who describe themselves as a “strong Republican,” 71 percent who called themselves “very conservative” and 68 percent of rural voters. A bare majority (51 percent) of voters who call themselves “very liberal” also agreed. Overall, two-thirds of Republican and Independent voters agree that the government is “corrupt and rigged” against them, while Democrats are evenly split.
» With the debate raging about the integrity of our elections, a majority (56 percent) say they “generally trust elections to be conducted fairly and counted accurately.” But that view is deeply divergent by party. Four in five Democrats (78 percent) say they generally trust our elections to be fair and accurate. Half (51 percent) of Independent voters but just 33 percent of Republicans agree. Among those who reported voting for Donald Trump in 2020, the number who say they generally trust elections is 31 percent.
» Nearly half of Americans (49 percent) agreed that they “more and more feel like a stranger in my own country,” with 69 percent of strong Republicans and 65 percent who call themselves “very conservative” leading the way. Fully 38 percent of strong Democrats agreed.
» And 28 percent of voters, including 37 percent who have guns in their homes, agree that “it may be necessary at some point soon for citizens to take up arms against the government.” That view is held by one in three Republicans, including 45 percent of self-identified strong Republicans. Roughly one in three (35 percent) Independent voters and one in five Democrats agreed.