View more in
Presidential Election

21 million Americans say Biden is ‘illegitimate’ and Trump should be restored by violence, survey finds

The Conversation U.S.
The Conversation U.S.
 29 days ago
Some Americans are looking past Joe Biden, seeking the return of Donald Trump as president. AP Photo/Julio Cortez

A recent Washington demonstration supporting those charged with crimes for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol fizzled, with no more than 200 demonstrators showing up. The organizers had promised 700 people would turn out – or more.

But the threat from far-right insurrectionists is not over.

For months, my colleagues and I at the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats have been tracking insurrectionist sentiments in U.S. adults, most recently in surveys in June. We have found that 47 million American adults – nearly 1 in 5 – agree with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” Of those, 21 million also agree that “use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.”

Our survey found that many of these 21 million people with insurrectionist sentiments have the capacity for violent mobilization. At least 7 million of them already own a gun, and at least 3 million have served in the U.S. military and so have lethal skills. Of those 21 million, 6 million said they supported right-wing militias and extremist groups, and 1 million said they are themselves or personally know a member of such a group, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

Only a small percentage of people who hold extremist views ever actually commit acts of violence, but our findings reveal how many Americans hold views that could turn them toward insurrection.

A solid survey

In June 2021, our group commissioned a survey done by the independent, non-partisan researchers at NORC at the University of Chicago, seeking to discover how widespread insurrectionist sentiments are among U.S. adults.

The research methods meet the highest standards in the polling industry – a random sample of a representative sample. It’s the same process NORC uses to conduct polling for The Associated Press, the federal government and other major institutions.

First, NORC pulls together a panel of 40,000 people, called AmeriSpeak, who are representative of the entire U.S. population on dozens of characteristics, such as age, race, income, location of residence and religion. From that representative sample, NORC drew a random sample – in our case, 1,070 people.

Extreme beliefs

This polling found that 9% of American adults say they agree with the statement that “Use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.” And 25% of adults either strongly or somewhat agree with the statement that “The 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.”

Overall, 8% of the survey participants share both of those views.

The margin of error of this survey was plus or minus 4 percentage points. So when calculating the number of the 258 million adult Americans who hold these views, we looked at the range of between 4% and 12% – which gave us between 10 million and 31 million. The best single figure is the middle of that range, 21 million.
On Jan. 6, 2021, people claiming the presidential election had been stolen stormed the U.S. Capitol in hopes of keeping Donald Trump in office. AP Photo/John Minchillo

People who said force is justified to restore Trump were consistent in their insurrectionist sentiments: Of them, 90% also see Biden as illegitimate, and 68% also think force may be needed to preserve America’s traditional way of life.

The fringe moving into the mainstream

Combined with their military experience, gun ownership and connections to extremist groups and militias, this signals the existence of significant mainstream support in America for a violent insurrection.

This group of 21 million who agree both that force is justified to restore Trump and that Biden is an illegitimate president has two additional views that are also on the fringes of mainstream society:

Some people with insurrectionist sentiments hold one of these political views but not the other, suggesting there are multiple ways of thinking that lead a person toward the insurrectionist movement.

Broader support

This latest research reinforces our previous findings, that the Jan. 6 insurrection represents a far more mainstream movement than earlier instances of right-wing extremism across the country. Those events, mostly limited to white supremacist and militia groups, saw more than 100 individuals arrested from 2015 to 2020. But just 14% of those arrested for their actions on Jan. 6 are members of those groups. More than half are business owners or middle-aged white-collar professionals, and only 7% are unemployed.

There is no way to say for sure when – or even whether – these insurrectionists will take action. On Jan. 6, it took clear direction from Donald Trump and other political leaders to turn these dangerous sentiments into a violent reality. But the movement itself is larger and more complex than many people might like to think.

[Get The Conversation’s most important politics headlines, in our Politics Weekly newsletter.]

Comments / 2610

29d ago

Someone explain to me why you voted for Biden? Why you love him so much? Why do approve of gas hikes? Why do you approve of all of these illegal immigrants coming to the US without being vaccinated? Why do you approve that we pay for everything for these illegal immigrants? If these illegal immigrants would stop coming to the US we would have relief from COVID but we don’t because BIDEN doesn’t have them vaccinated! Please elaborate? I really want to know! And don’t blame Trump he has nothing to do with it.

Christopher Wayne Goodman
29d ago

That's your only real problem? How about 13 dead Marines in botched mass evac of Afghanistan. What happen abandoning of Afghan allies to be beheaded by the Taliban? What about China and North Korea rattling sabers? What about his shady ties to Ukraine and China? What about cutting off American oil to buy it from his sons Ukraine oil company then beg OPEC to increase volume? What about how did 10k Haitian get across 2000 miles of ocean? What about the France submarine deal? What about failed policy on COVID? What about illegal power grab to force medical procedures against someone's will? What about the tanking economy? What about the ridiculous unemployment? What about the highest inflation in 50 years? Oh, but at least he don't say mean things. He'll he can bearly put a paragraph together which also brings up what about his mental competency? And what about his shadow government where his handlers don't let him take questions? This guy is a joke, and a bad one at tha

Mr Bill
29d ago

Illegitimate or not he is the worst President in history. 38% approval and dropping like a brick. This administration does nothing right. Wake up people we are being driven off a cliff. MEAN TWEETS 2024


Comments / 0