More than half of Republicans believe the U.S. is drifting toward another civil war, according to a new poll released Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which said it detected evidence of radicalization among both Democrats and the GOP.
The survey, taken in late April and covering 1,500 adults, also found a distressingly high level of support for assassinating politicians whom the respondents believed were “harming the country or our democracy.”
Young Democratic men were the most agreeable to the idea, with 44% saying they could countenance such an assassination. Younger Republican women ranked second, with 40% approving of the idea. Older folks — defined as those 50 and older — were not fans of assassination, no matter their party or gender.
That could explain why 44% of all respondents said the U.S. “seems headed toward a civil war in the near future.” That included 53% of Republicans and 39% of Democrats.
“The mood, overall, is pessimistic,” the SPLC concluded, warning that it saw particularly worrying signs that Republicans, if they make political gains, could erode rights of the “marginalized in our society.”
“No political outcomes are inevitable. But our results show that a substantial effort, on the part of activists, institutions, and government, will be required if we hope to secure a multiracial democracy and prevent partisan violence,” the SPLC wrote in its analysis of its findings.
The group, founded in the early 1970s to combat hate against Black Americans, now serves as one of the chief critics of what’s known as “Replacement Theory” — a belief that there’s an intentional effort to shift demographics to alter the country’s culture or political power structure.
SPLC’s polling found widespread acceptance of the tenets of the theory, with 48% of respondents believing that “progressive and liberal leaders” are “actively trying to leverage political power by replacing more conservative white voters.”
That included two-thirds of Republicans, but also a surprising 35% of Democrats, and 42% of independents. Young Democrats were particularly inclined to believe the demographic changes are being orchestrated by liberal leaders for political power.
Democrats in Washington, as well as activist groups like the SPLC, say those beliefs are racist, and have fueled recent mass shootings including the one at a Buffalo supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood last month.
But the widespread belief, including by many young Democrats, could challenge the racism narrative.
SPLC’s findings on Replacement Theory are somewhat higher than other polling, including a major survey late last year by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which found about a third of the country believed in “aspects” of the theory.
At the same time, though, the SPLC’s polling found a decreasing worry over immigration, with just 50% saying they are “concerned” about it. That’s down from 64% who professed concern in SPLC’s August 2020 polling.
“The decline is perhaps a result of President Trump — who relentlessly stoked anti-immigrant hysteria — no longer being in office. But that decline could also, in part, mean that those on the right are less concerned with immigration specifically than they are with the supposed progressive and liberal plot to use immigrants to erode the power of more conservative whites,” the SPLC said.