1 in 5 American Adults Believe Violence May Be Needed To Get the Country ‘Back on Track,’ Poll Finds

Forty-one percent think that America has gone ‘so far off track that we need a leader who is willing to break some rules to set things right.’

AP, File
Presidents Biden and Trump. AP, File

As vicious political rhetoric abounds on the campaign trail and in the press, 20 percent of American adults think getting the country “back on track” may require resorting to violence, according to a new poll.

That’s the latest from a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll of 1,305 adults conducted in late March, which also found that 41 percent of Americans agree or strongly agree that “America has gotten so far off track that we need a leader who is willing to break some rules to set things right.” 

The poll comes on the heels of President Biden’s recent statements at a campaign event at New York, where he accused President Trump of embracing the violence of January 6, 2021, and “running on it.” It’s part of a larger national criticism of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, including recent hysteria in the press that he was calling for a “bloodbath” against political opponents. The remarks, as the Sun reported, were taken out of context. 

Other observers have pointed to Democrats’ silence when it comes to condemning the 2020 “summer of violence” by Black Lives Matter protesters, attacks against pregnancy resource centers and churches, and Antifa-connected vandalism, arson, and violence toward cops, and mobs of antisemitic protesters calling for the genocide of Jews. Some have pointed to far-left activists taking over campuses across the country, including places like UC Berkeley, where threats have erupted that Jewish students said are reminiscent of late-1930s Nazi Germany.

Meanwhile, threats are also growing against federal judges, and the judiciary has asked Congress for tens of millions of dollars in funding to bolster security.

This week, a man in Florida was sentenced to 14 months in prison after he threatened a specific justice — reportedly Chief Justice Roberts. The man, 43-year-old Neal Brij Sidhwaney, called the Supreme Court from Florida and left an “expletive-laden, threatening voicemail message” while identifying himself by name, the Department of Justice said in a statement. 

A separate case is pending against a man charged with attempting to assassinate Justice Kavanaugh. He was allegedly found near the justice’s home armed with tactical gear and had allegedly expressed his intent to kill Justice Kavanaugh because of disagreements with him over abortion and gun issues. 

While the poll released this week shows that a majority of Americans oppose political violence, the one-fifth of respondents who do think it could help the country get back on track include people across the political spectrum — 28 percent of Republicans, 12 percent of Democrats, and 18 percent of independents agreed. 

The poll also provided insight into the election, noting that “the major party candidates are closely matched for the 2024 presidential contest,” but that the “dynamics driving the race are taking an unanticipated turn.”

Four in 10 nationally registered voters say they haven’t chosen a candidate or could change their minds, while six in 10 say they know for whom they will vote and won’t switch. When asked who voters would pick if they had to choose now, 50 percent said Mr. Biden and 48 percent said Mr. Trump.  

A majority of adults surveyed disagreed that people should be allowed to own military-style assault weapons, that religion should influence public policy, and that a president should be immune from crimes committed while in office. 

A majority of respondents agreed that corporate greed is a major contributor to inflation, that the American Dream can still be attained, and that America is too politically correct. 

Several hot-button topics the poll asked about showed a wide divide between Democrats and Republicans. Overall, 51 percent of respondents agreed that “all immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally should be deported,” and 47 percent agreed that “discrimination against white people has become just as big a problem as discrimination against Black Americans and other minority groups.”

The New York Sun

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