The United States, Jan. 6, 2021. 20% of those surveyed in the Church Institute study said political violence is justified. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A sizable minority of residents in Nevada and neighboring Mountain West states think violence is justified when the government fails its people, according to a new survey.
And only 51% of adults surveyed this fall in Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Montana acknowledged President Joe Biden legitimately beat former President Donald J. Trump in the November 2020 election.
The percentage was higher in Nevada, where 60% of adults surveyed acknowledged Trump’s defeat was legitimate.
The findings are part of survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based research and polling firm Morning Consult for the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University.
Though not connected to an International IDEA report released this week, the survey’s results compliment that report’s first-ever listing of the U.S. as a “backsliding” democracy.
More than 70% of respondents in the Church Institute/Morning Consult survey of adults said that the actions by those involved in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol are not justified.
However, 20% of people surveyed in the five states said they believe political violence is justified “when things have gotten so bad that the government is not acting in the best interest of the people.”
The survey found 58% of respondents said “political violence is not justified in a democracy, the better solution is the ballot box,” and the remainder were unsure.
About 85% of adults in Mountain West states are concerned about the health of democracy in the United States, according to the survey. That includes 50% of survey respondents who said they are “very concerned” and 35% of respondents who told researchers they are “somewhat concerned.”
Digging deeper, the survey found that 83% of adults are worried about misrepresentation of facts and misinformation.
“Signs of optimism or hope are hard to detect in this extensive new research from the Rocky Mountain states. Fear, alienation and mistrust characterize the minds of these Americans,” said Peter Fenn, a Frank Church Institute board member and political analyst, in a written statement.
“The worry barometer is elevated so high that one of the world’s most successful democracies is vulnerable to political hyper-partisanship, disinformation and dysfunction,” Fenn wrote. “The good news is that people expect elected officials to work together to repair the damage.”
Two-thirds of respondents, or 66%, said they want their elected officials to work together and find common ground when it comes to solutions. Nearly 30% said term limits or holding politicians accountable for unethical or illegal behavior are most likely to strengthen a democracy.
Other findings of the survey include:
- 80% of respondents believe Americans with different political viewpoints have a hard time talking with each other.
- 71% of Mountain West respondents believe the country is headed down the wrong track;
- 47% of Mountain West respondents said they believe their own state is headed down the wrong track.
- Despite thinking the country is on the wrong track, 62% of people said they have a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the United States.
- 35% have a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the presidency.
- 61% have “a lot” or “some” confidence in their local government.
- 59% believe Americans living in rural areas do not have enough influence in national politics.
- 31% said they watch Fox News at least once a week, the highest rate among any of the 16 news and information sources asked about in the survey.
Morning Consult conducted the online survey of 1,899 adults in Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Nevada from Sept. 24 through Oct. 26.
The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. The full findings of the survey are available online.
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