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Roughly 80 Percent Of Americans Scared Political Incivility Will Lead To More Violence


If you are scared about how toxic politics have become, you are not alone. Roughly 80 percent of Americans are scared that political incivility around the country will lead to more violence. That's according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll taken after Saturday's shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben has been poring over these poll results. She joins me now. Hey there.


KELLY: So 80 percent, 8 in 10 Americans, worried about politically motivated violence. And I guess my first question is do those numbers hold true across the political spectrum?

KURTZLEBEN: Yes, but it's not just across the political spectrum. That's one of the more remarkable things here. It's across pretty much every single Democratic group we looked at. Whether it's race, age, geography, education, you name it, a majority of people in those groups are concerned to some degree that negativity in politics will lead to violence. And, by the way, that also does hold across parties, like you asked. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, independents, they're all concerned about more violence or acts of terror.

But we should add here that Democrats are more intensely worried. Sixty-three percent of Democrats said they are very concerned, and only about half as many Republicans are. So even on a question like this that's pretty simple where there seems to be broad agreement, you dig beneath the surface and there's some partisan divisions.

KELLY: Yeah. Now, does the poll ask who - or I guess I should say or what people think is to blame for all this incivility in politics?

KURTZLEBEN: It does. Yeah. So we get a sense of who people think is to blame, at the very least.

KELLY: Yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. A plurality of Americans - so around 4 in 10 - they blame President Trump, but not too far behind is the news media. We come in at 30 percent. Nearly 2 in 10 people blame Democrats in Congress, and nearly 1 in 10 blame Republicans in Congress, rounding this all out. But we did try to get more specific. We asked about those pipe bombs that were sent to prominent Democrats, prominent Trump critics, last week. We asked people, so who do you think is mainly to blame for inspiring those?

And we got somewhat similar results. Once again, a plurality of people - around 4 in 10 - they think Trump's conduct is to blame. And once again, the media followed behind. But there are some heavy partisan splits here. As you might imagine, Democrats blame Trump. More Republicans blame the news media more.

KELLY: All right. So here we sit five days out from midterm elections. I mean, what do these results say about how midterms might go?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, so in that generic ballot question, that question where you ask voters, who do you plan to vote for in your district, Democrats have a nine-point lead over Republicans - and that's among likely voters here - and that's roughly in line with other recent polls. Not only that, but it's held pretty steady even in the last few weeks as all of those undecided voters decide to shake out. They pick who they're going to vote for. It's held at around, you know, those high single digits in those last few weeks.

KELLY: Danielle, you study demographics pretty closely. In particular, gender. Have you found anything in this poll that's going to inform who you watch most closely on election night?

KURTZLEBEN: Yes. Absolutely. And, of course, it will be gender because, you know, in 2016, there was a huge gender divide in Trump's election. There appears to be a pretty big gender divide here, as well. Women prefer the Democrats by about 15 points in their districts. Men are about evenly split. Especially college graduate women, another big group to watch. They really have swung Democrat in the last few years.

KELLY: Thanks, Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.

KELLY: That's NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.