A new report from researchers at UC Davis has found that Republicans who supported former president Donald Trump and agreed with the statement that the 2020 election was “stolen” were more likely to hold extreme and racist beliefs and endorse political violence.
The survey asked 7,000 people nationwide about their political views and how they affiliated. Classified as “MAGA Republicans” in the report, the survey showed that people who affiliated this way were most likely to hold extremist views about race and more likely to believe that a civil war would happen in the United States in the next few years.
“There appears to be a decline in the support for democracy as a form of government,” said Garen Wintemute, director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. “The threat is existential not to us as a nation, but potentially to us as a democracy.”
He adds that he sees the report as a warning.
“Even abstract support for political violence creates a climate of acceptance for that, and that facilitates mobilization to actually committing violence, and that has in it the seed of the solution,” he said. “If the majority of us who don’t endorse political violence, the majority of Republicans who don’t endorse political violence will make that publicly clear, if leaders from all points on the spectrum will say this is not acceptable, that’s likely to reduce the amount of violence that occurs.”
According to the study, 60% of “MAGA Republicans” who met the two key criteria felt political violence could be justified. This was compared to 30% of people who identified simply as “Republicans” and 25% for all other political affiliations.
The group of “MAGA Republicans” were also far more likely to agree with elements of the QAnon conspiracy that American-born white people are being replaced by immigrants. Seth Brysk, Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Northern California office noted that recent acts of anti-semitism around Sacramento and the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, all point to an alarming level of civil unrest from the far right.
“Anti-semitism is the canary in the coal mine of civil society,” Brysk said. “In other words, when you see anti-semitism rearing its ugly head, this is an indication that society is sick.”
Other experts see the new report as further evidence of a growing threat to democracy from far right extremists. Lindsay Schubiner is a program director at the Western States Center, an organization that started tracking far right extremist groups before the 2020 election. She feels the study is an extension of the growing evidence of far right groups threatening democracy.
“I think it reaffirms what we are seeing on the ground about a deeply troubling national trend toward the increasing acceptance of political violence in mainstream politics,” Schubiner said.
Schubiner adds that part of a larger worrying trend she’s seeing: extremist far right groups, like the Proud Boys, are looking to infiltrate mainstream politics, which, in turn, can normalize certain fringe beliefs.
“There are elected officials that are not only failing to speak out against that, but in many cases are repeating their messaging and talking points or even collaborating directly,” she said. “And that's incredibly dangerous. I think we need to fully recognize the scale of the assault on elections and civil society and democracy itself.”
Schubiner says some elected officials have spoken out firmly against extremists, and that needs to continue. She also said that, in light of the upcoming midterm election, she hopes elected officials will call out rhetoric about violence at the polls that could intimidate voters.
One final note in the report stated that, although so-called “MAGA Republicans” were more likely to endorse political violence, they were no more likely to individually commit an act of violence than a person of other political affiliations. Wintemute said this is a hopeful sign that firm action from people in power can have an impact.
“They’re telling us about their beliefs and their intentions,” Wintemute said. “If we ignore what they’re telling us and the violence happens, I would argue it’s not just the fault of the people who committed it, it’s the fault of all the people, all of us who could have done something to prevent it but who did not.”
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