American Decline

Is the US headed for another Civil War?

By William G. Gale and Darrell M. West Brookings Institute

Is it really possible that America could face the possibility of civil war in the near future? It may seem unthinkable, and yet there’s much to worry about.

A 2021 national survey by pollster John Zogby found a plurality of Americans (46%) believed a future civil war was likely, 43% felt it was unlikely, and 11% were not sure. War seemed more likely for younger people (53%) than older ones (31%), and for those residing in the South (49%) and Central/Great Lakes region (48%) relative to those in the East (39%).

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina made a false claim regarding election integrity and said, “If our election systems continue to be rigged, then it’s going to lead to one place and that’s bloodshed. … There’s nothing I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American.” (Translation: “It would be a shame if false election claims cause a civil war.”) These kinds of remarks should not be taken lightly.

The recent survey did not ask why people thought civil war was possible or how it could happen. But we believe there are several forces pushing many to imagine the unthinkable.

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