The Washington Post

Interrogat­ing the pollsters


The poll in the Jan. 2 front-page article “1 in 3 can justify violence against government” contained an alarming question: “Do you think it is ever justified for citizens to take violent action against the government, or is it never justified?” Nazi Germany probably springs to mind for most: a government that kills and imprisons, tortures anyone it doesn’t like. Right?

The following part narrowed this to U.s.-specific cases and asked is violence justified if the “government violates or takes away rights or freedoms/oppresses people.” The poll said 22 percent agreed that violence was acceptable in that case. But what does it mean to take away freedoms and “oppress”? The poll fell apart after this question.

Only 3 percent cited violence as justified in response to a “president or government [that] does not accept election results,” and only — incredibly — 2 percent cited a takeover of the U.S. government by Nazis or fascists as justifying violence.

Why did the most robust case for justifying violence against a government — a Nazi-based takeover — get the weakest response? It’s because the poll was flawed.

The Post misled the public by asserting that the risk of violence is much greater than it is. According to this poll, if only 2 percent are willing to take action against a Hitler 2.0, I seriously doubt people will launch a civil war over mask and vaccine mandates.

Patrick Thibodeau, Washington

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