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NC voters worry of civil war, brace for possibility of political violence

A Meredith College poll found that 61% of Republicans believe use of force may be needed to save the country from a perceived disappearing way of life.

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By
Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolinians are increasingly worried about the future of democracy, and many are preparing for the possibility of a civil war in the coming years, according to a Meredith College poll released on Monday.

Sixty-one percent of Republicans and 36% of Democrats believe the use of force may be needed to save the country from what they see as a disappearing way of life, according to the online survey of 819 registered voters in the state. Republicans were also more likely to believe violence may be needed to get the country back on track. Thirty-six percent of GOP respondents and 23% of Democrats say violence could become necessary. Younger adults were more likely to envision a violent clash.

“There's some disturbing findings,” said David McLennan, a Meredith College political scientist. “The youngest voters, the 18- to 24-year-olds, don't quite have the same feelings about democracy as some of the other generations.

“When it comes down to using force or violence to maintain a way of life, there's some findings in there that are a little concerning. Republicans are 50% more likely than Democrats to favor the use of political violence.”

The survey reported a credibility interval of 3.3 percentage points. A credibility interval is similar to margin of error but takes into account more factors and is considered by some pollsters to be a more accurate measurement of statistical certainty.

More than one-third of respondents said they believe there will be a civil war in the United States in the next few years, including 41% of Republicans and 34% of Democrats. Nearly 46% of adults between the ages of 25 and 40 predicted a civil war.

“Ten years ago, we wouldn't even be having this discussion about the future of democracy,” McLennan said. “But now we're forced to because of what voter attitudes are.”

More polarization, guns

More Americans are buying guns, in part due to fears of forthcoming violence in their communities. A poll conducted from July 28 to Aug. 1 by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 42% of respondents have guns in their home or garage, a seven-point increase from the time the question was previously asked in March 2019.

McLennan points to former President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat in the 2020 election as a major contributor to the country’s growing political polarization. He also noted tensions have historically run high in election years.

Despite concerns from North Carolina voters over the country’s future, few respondents to the Meredith College poll appeared to seek conflict. Eighty-four percent of Democrats and Republicans said they personally tend to avoid conflict.

Respondents also presented competing views about how they interact with others.

While 60% of the North Carolina voters surveyed said they enjoy challenging the opinions of others, 83% said they don’t often start arguments.

“When we talk about political violence, or the use of force, people depersonalize those kinds of situations,” McLennan said. “They feel like they're fighting for a larger cause or acting on behalf of a larger cause. But I think when we ask the questions about ‘Do you like arguments?’, ‘Do you like conflict?’, people think [of arguing] with their spouse, with their friend or with their person at work. But when they think about politics, they think about it somewhat differently.”

Senate race deadlocked

The poll also gauged voter attitudes on the 2022 election and key policy issues. The survey had the U.S. Senate race in a statistical tie between former Democratic state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, with both polling at 41%. Twelve percent of respondents were undecided.

Abortion was an animating issue that strongly divided Democrats and Republicans.

Nearly eight in 10 Democrats wanted to expand abortion access or maintain the spirit of Roe v. Wade, which allowed access to the procedure during the first 22 weeks of their pregnancy. A U.S. Supreme Court decision this year effectively overturned Roe. Only one-fourth of Republicans felt similarly.

A plurality of GOP voters favored access to the procedure only when a woman’s life is in danger or they are a victim of rape or incest. Only 13% of Republicans favored an abortion ban in all cases.

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Bryan Anderson, Reporter

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