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A wide majority of Americans are concerned about politically motivated violence

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 11/4/2022 Emily Guskin
Pedestrians walk in front of the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul Pelosi, in San Francisco on Wednesday. (Jeff Chiu/AP) Pedestrians walk in front of the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul Pelosi, in San Francisco on Wednesday. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

A wide and bipartisan majority of Americans worry there is increased danger of politically motivated violence in the United States, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Nearly 9 in 10 Americans (88 percent) are concerned that political divisions have intensified to the point that there’s an increased risk of politically motivated violence in the United States, including over 6 in 10 who are “very concerned.”

Of the two parties, more Americans blame the Republican Party more for the risk of violence, but the difference is not wide — 31 percent, vs. the 25 percent who blame the Democratic Party more. Another 32 percent blame both parties equally. Most Democrats and Republicans blame the opposing party.

The poll was conducted in the week after Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked at their home by an assailant with a hammer and subsequently hospitalized. The alleged attacker, David DePape, 42, shouted “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?” after he broke into the Pelosis’ home, according to someone briefed on the assault. DePape’s online writings contain “deeply racist and antisemitic writings — as well as pro-Trump and anti-Democratic posts,” The Washington Post reported.

On Wednesday evening, President Biden pleaded with the nation to accept the fundamental tenets of democracy — to accept election results and avoid resorting to violence.

“We must, with one overwhelming unified voice, speak as a country and say there’s no place, no place for voter intimidation or political violence in America, whether it’s directed at Democrats or Republicans,” Biden said. “No place, period. No place, ever.”

Detailed crosstabs of poll results
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The FBI and other government agencies issued a memo last week that warned of an increased likelihood of violence from domestic extremists in the 90 days after the election, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Post.

“Following the 2022 midterm election, perceptions of election-related fraud and dissatisfaction with electoral outcomes likely will result in heightened threats of violence against a broad range of targets — such as ideological opponents and election workers,” the memo read.

The Post-ABC poll finds 95 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of independents are at least somewhat concerned that there is an increased risk of politically motivated violence. Three-quarters of Democrats are very concerned, compared with smaller majorities of independents and Republicans (61 percent and 56 percent).

Two-thirds of Democrats (66 percent) say the Republican Party is more to blame for the risk of political violence, while 56 percent of Republicans blame the Democratic Party. A plurality of independents, 39 percent, say both parties are to blame, while 24 percent blame Republicans more and 20 percent blame Democrats.

Women are more likely to be concerned about the increased risk of politically motivated violence than men: 92 percent of women say they are concerned compared with 83 percent of men. Over two-thirds of women are very concerned.

Women are also more likely to blame the Republican Party for the risk of violence — 38 percent place more blame on Republicans while 18 percent blame Democrats and 33 percent blame both equally. Among men, 32 percent blame Democrats, 24 percent blame Republicans and 30 percent blame both equally.

Politically motivated violence is not just a threat to the rich and powerful. Experts who track political violence say that threats to local election workers, school board members and even librarians have simmered for months.

“If somebody sets their sights on these individuals and then they decide to mobilize, there’s virtually nothing stopping them,” Michael Jensen, a senior researcher at the University of Maryland’s START consortium for terrorism research, told Post reporters.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted Oct. 30-Nov. 2 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults, with 75 percent reached on cellphones and 25 percent on landlines. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of four percentage points.

Scott Clement contributed to this reporting.

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