New poll shows high expectations of civil war
Economic collapse, end of U.S. superpower also anticipated
6 minute read
I will return to my series on the 1983 War Scare next week. This week I urgently need to report on this new poll of U.S. citizens which just came into my inbox.
The end of optimism
Around 40% of U.S. citizens believe a civil war will break out, 47% expect a total economic collapse, and 50% anticipate the end of the U.S. as a global superpower, all in the next 10 years.
Those are the results of a poll of 1,000 U.S. citizens conducted Sept. 1-4 by YouGov and the Economist which asked people’s views on 15 catastrophic scenarios. Margin of error is 3%. Results demonstrate that the U.S., once the land of optimism, has sunk into deep pessimism over its future.
To dig into all the results, go here. I will highlight some of the most alarming.
Five civil war scenarios
Polling tested various civil war scenarios, and measured the differences between Democrats and Republicans, which are significant.
“There will be a civil war between people who are Republicans and Democrats.” Overall 40% said it is likely, while the percentage answering very likely was 14%. The not likely results are almost a mirror image. Between the parties, 45% of Republicans consider a civil war likely, compared to 35% of Democrats. (The remainder are in the not sure or prefer not to answer category.)
“There will be a civil war between red and blue states.” Overall, 31% said it is likely, with 9% answering very likely. Answering unlikely were 44%, with 17% saying not likely at all. Among Republicans, 36% said this is likely, compared to 30% of Democrats.
“There will be a civil war between the rich and the poor.” Overall, 30% thought this likely, with 11% saying very likely. Thinking it unlikely were 51%, with 23% saying not likely at all. Here, Democrats far exceeded Republicans, with 37% considering it likely, compared to 25% of Republicans.
“There will be a civil war between people of different races.” In results very similar to the class war scenario, 30% said it was likely, with 11% in the very likely camp. 53% thought it unlikely, with 25% saying not likely at all. Interestingly, members of both parties converged, 31% in either believing it likely.
“There will be a civil war between people living in cities and people in rural areas.” Overall, 21% said it is likely, with 8% saying very likely. Meanwhile, 59% consider it unlikely, with 26% in the not likely at all camp. Democrats and Republicans were fairly close here, 23% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats considering it likely.
On a related scenario, “States will secede from the U.S.,” 38% of Republicans considered it likely versus 25% of Democrats. Overall, 28% consider this a likely scenario, with 10% saying very likely. The unlikely camp numbered 48%, with those thinking it is not likely at all numbering 23%.
While many expect a civil war, few think it would be a good thing. Overall, 69% answered bad, and only 6% good.
Bedtime for democracy
People who believe democracy will survive in the U.S. only marginally exceed those who expect it to end, 39% versus 38%. The end of U.S. democracy is considered very likely by 13%, but the number who think that very unlikely are not much greater at 18%.
A lot of people expect the U.S. to turn into some kind of dictatorship, but here the parties also diverge. 31% expect the U.S. to turn fascist, while 43% disagree. Numbers who expect this among Republicans are 32%, and among Democrats 37%. The divergence is far greater when it comes to expectations of the U.S. going communist. 31% of Republicans expect this outcome, but only 13% of Democrats. The overall numbers are 21% anticipating communism and 58% saying this is unlikely. The divergence in expectations between fascism and communism is perhaps explained by the fact that while the latter is identified in people’s minds as left-wing, fascism is a charge left and right hurl at each other.
One of the strongest results is the expectation of a U.S. retreat from global power. “The U.S. will no longer be a global superpower,” drew a 50% yes response, with 20% thinking this very likely. Only 32% percent expect the U.S. to continue its global role, and only 12% think this the end of U.S. superpower not likely at all.
Numbers who believe “There will be a total economic collapse” also far exceed those who don’t, 47% versus 35%. Very likely versus not likely amounted to 20% versus 12%. Here was one of the sharpest divergences among parties, 65% of Republicans versus 38% of Democrats considering collapse likely. This seems to reflect the preponderance of Republicans over Democrats in the depressed heartland and rural areas, while Democrats center in prosperous metropolitan regions.
U.S. citizens fear extremism, but different forms of extremism. 68% of Democrats are concerned about white-supremacists, and 60% about the right-wing. Among Republicans, it is left-wing extremism at 62% and Muslim extremism at 36%. See below chart.
Rebuilding from the ground up
Looking at these polling numbers, I wonder if it is possible for us to get off this bus before it tumbles off a cliff. Polling also showed 66% believe U.S. divisions have increased in the past year, and 62% anticipate it getting worse. The kind of numbers reflected in these polls tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies. Even if expectations of civil war are still a minority viewpoint, it is striking that the war between the parties is thought likely by two in five, that war between the states, the classes or the races is thought likely by nearly one in three, and even the war between cities and countryside is expected by one in five.
The Raven has written extensively on the possibility of a U.S. break-up. This journal has asked, “Is the U.S. beyond repair?” and pondered national breakdown. It has identified cracks already appearing, and mapped “The Fragmented Geography of the Cold Civil War.” The Raven has looked to the region as a place to begin rebuilding a continental commonwealth in a series on the thinking of historian William Appleman Williams beginning here. The similar thinking of regionalist Lewis Mumford is illuminated in a series that opened with this post, “In a time of national breakdown, return to the region.” The idea of rebuilding from the local and regional ground up infuses The Raven, such as here in “Finding a place to make a stand.” Ultimately, I believe with what looks like it is coming in the U.S., it is crucial to assemble centers of strength in local communities, states and regions. We are going to need all the solidarity we can muster.
Still, it feels tragic that at a time when people in the U.S. need to come together more than at any time in our history to address the country’s mounting challenges, we seem more divided than perhaps at any time before the original Civil War. Chalk it up to national political and economic leaders who on the whole seem more interested in lining their own pockets and ruling by divide and conquer techniques, a mass media similarly spurring divisions to increase ratings, and a people sedated by sports and entertainment, taught to be consumers rather than citizens.
I don’t know where this all comes out, and the numbers don’t look good. All I know to say is draw close to your neighbors and friends, and build alliances and common ground where we can. It feels like tough times coming.
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Thank you for your invitation. Not having voted for a Republican since Eisenhower, I have watched the unraveling of the country through stupidity and greed aided and abetted by Republican presidents, SCOTUS (2000, Citizens United, Powell, Scalia), the Koch brothers, Big Pharma, etc. I have voted for Democrats and until Trump, thought our better angels would prevail. Now I am both scared and sad at the situation in which we find ourselves. No amount of writing GOTV postcards consoles me.
As a reader of The NY Times, WAPO, and a watcher of MSNBC, I read as much as I can bear every day. Please don’t send me more, but keep up the good work!