Two in five Americans say a civil war is at least somewhat likely in the next decade

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
August 26, 2022, 6:48 PM GMT+0

New polling by the Economist and YouGov asked Americans about changes in the U.S. political climate, including whether divisions have worsened and what they expect in the future. We find that most Americans believe divisions have gotten worse since the start of 2021 and most expect them to grow in the coming years. Two in five Americans believe a civil war is at least somewhat likely in the next decade; Republicans are more likely than Democrats to expect civil war.

Two-thirds of Americans (66%) believe that political divisions in this country have gotten worse since the beginning of 2021, compared to only 8% who say the country has grown less divided. Few see things improving in the coming years: 62% expect an increase in political divisions.

A similar share (63%) to the proportion who say political divisions have worsened (66%) say political violence has increased since the start of 2021. Three in five Americans (60%) anticipate an increase in political violence in the next few years and only 9% expect political violence to decline.

Compared to Democrats, Republicans are more likely to say political division has worsened lately and to expect the political divide to widen. Opinions on the frequency of political violence — now and in the future — have much smaller partisan gaps.

What is the likelihood that political violence will culminate in a civil war in the U.S.? While only 14% of Americans say a civil war is very likely in the next decade, 43% say it is at least somewhat likely. About one in three – 35% – say it is not very or at all likely, and 22% are unsure. People who say they are "strong Republicans" are the political group most likely to anticipate a civil war: 21% say it's very likely, compared to less than 15% of each of the other four political groups studied.

— Kathy Frankovic and Carl Bialik contributed to this article.

This poll was conducted on August 20 - 23, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll.

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