3 in 4 Voters Worried About Election-Related Violence, Poll Shows

October 31, 2020 Updated: November 1, 2020

Three-quarters of U.S. voters are concerned about the possibility of violence on and after Election Day, according to a new poll.

Seventy-five percent of respondents were either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the possibility of violence on Election Day and afterward, according to the poll (pdf) conducted by USA Today/Suffolk University. Meanwhile, only 11 percent of respondents say they aren’t at all concerned about the possibility of violence.

The results are an increase from an October 2016 poll (pdf), which found 51 percent of Americans expressing concern about the possibility of violence. Meanwhile, 27 percent said they weren’t at all concerned.

Among the respondents, both Democrats and Republicans have shown similar levels of concern, with 80 percent Democrats and 71 percent Republicans saying that they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the possibility of violence.

Local and state officials across the country are considering activating the National Guard in order to support the election and stand-by in the event of civil unrest; personnel also will assist to fight foreign attempts to disrupt the election through cyberattacks. At least 1,400 Guard troops have committed to the efforts, according to the Military Times.

State and federal officials have cautioned over potential violence and rioting on Election Day and days that follow.

A threat assessment released in late September by the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness (pdf) warned that a number of threats from domestic extremists and foreign adversaries that have emerged due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, anti-government sentiment, nationwide civil unrest, and various forms of disinformation, will begin to converge with the presidential election “in a manner not previously experienced by our nation.”

“Disinformation has played a vital role in the spread of inaccurate information regarding COVID-19, along with ongoing riots and alleged police brutality that have contributed to the civil unrest,” the report states. “Several near-peer competitor countries engage in these types of disinformation operations to undermine the United States’ credibility on a global front, as well as to induce political contention.

“This includes nation-state actors such as China, Iran, and Russia, which are attempting to sow anti-U.S. sentiments.”

It also warned that these threat actors may magnify existing issues to potentially create chaos during the election period. 

“Incidents of civil unrest resulting in riots, violent acts, and fatalities will converge with election uncertainty, producing confrontations between protesters and counter-demonstrators challenging election outcomes,” the report stated.

The new polling data, which was released on Oct. 29, also found that only 23 percent of Americans are “very confident” that the United States would have a peaceful transition of power if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins. Meanwhile, 32 percent are “somewhat confident,” while 17 percent say they are “not at all confident.”

A majority of respondents (69 percent) also said that they believe the divisions in the country have grown deeper than they were in the past, with only 22 percent saying that they believe divisions are about the same.

The poll, conducted between Oct. 23 and Oct. 27 of 1,000 likely voters through telephone interviews, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Isabel Van Brugen contributed to this report.

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