A Whiff of Civil War in the Air

On Thursday the University of Virginia released polling results that should shock exactly no one who closely follows American politics and culture. A majority of Trump voters (52 percent) and a strong minority of Biden voters (41 percent) strongly or somewhat agree that it’s “time to split the country.” 

Why would they even contemplate taking such a drastic step? Well, the poll provides the answers, and they’re not surprising. Competing partisans loathe each other and view the opposition as an existential threat. This also isn’t new. It’s been tracked in poll after poll for year after year. This one found that a “strong majority” of Trump supporters falsely believe there is no real difference between Democrats and socialists. A majority of Biden voters falsely see no real difference between Republicans and fascists.

What this poll tracked better than many others is that the mutual loathing is based more on emotion than policy. In fact, the poll found that majorities of Trump voters expressed support for most elements of the Biden infrastructure and reconciliation plan. Even the least popular plank (supporting unions by banning state “right to work” laws) garnered 42 percent support from those who voted for Trump. 

Yet broad consensus on the most important legislation now pending in Washington didn’t stop 80 percent of Biden voters and 84 percent of Trump voters from viewing the opposing party as a “clear and present threat to American democracy.” 

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