21 million Americans say Biden is ‘illegitimate’ and Trump should be restored by violence, survey finds

Some Americans are looking past Joe Biden, seeking the return of Donald Trump as president. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A recent Washington demonstration supporting those charged with crimes for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol fizzled, with no more than 200 demonstrators showing up. The organizers had promised 700 people would turn out – or more.

But the threat from far-right insurrectionists is not over.

For months, my colleagues and I at the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats have been tracking insurrectionist sentiments in U.S. adults, most recently in surveys in June. We have found that 47 million American adults – nearly 1 in 5 – agree with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” Of those, 21 million also agree that “use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.”

Our survey found that many of these 21 million people with insurrectionist sentiments have the capacity for violent mobilization. At least 7 million of them already own a gun, and at least 3 million have served in the U.S. military and so have lethal skills. Of those 21 million, 6 million said they supported right-wing militias and extremist groups, and 1 million said they are themselves or personally know a member of such a group, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

Only a small percentage of people who hold extremist views ever actually commit acts of violence, but our findings reveal how many Americans hold views that could turn them toward insurrection.

A solid survey

In June 2021, our group commissioned a survey done by the independent, non-partisan researchers at NORC at the University of Chicago, seeking to discover how widespread insurrectionist sentiments are among U.S. adults.

The research methods meet the highest standards in the polling industry – a random sample of a representative sample. It’s the same process NORC uses to conduct polling for The Associated Press, the federal government and other major institutions.

First, NORC pulls together a panel of 40,000 people, called AmeriSpeak, who are representative of the entire U.S. population on dozens of characteristics, such as age, race, income, location of residence and religion. From that representative sample, NORC drew a random sample – in our case, 1,070 people.

Extreme beliefs

This polling found that 9% of American adults say they agree with the statement that “Use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.” And 25% of adults either strongly or somewhat agree with the statement that “The 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.”

Overall, 8% of the survey participants share both of those views.

The margin of error of this survey was plus or minus 4 percentage points. So when calculating the number of the 258 million adult Americans who hold these views, we looked at the range of between 4% and 12% – which gave us between 10 million and 31 million. The best single figure is the middle of that range, 21 million.

A view of people storming the US Capitol
On Jan. 6, 2021, people claiming the presidential election had been stolen stormed the U.S. Capitol in hopes of keeping Donald Trump in office. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

People who said force is justified to restore Trump were consistent in their insurrectionist sentiments: Of them, 90% also see Biden as illegitimate, and 68% also think force may be needed to preserve America’s traditional way of life.

The fringe moving into the mainstream

Combined with their military experience, gun ownership and connections to extremist groups and militias, this signals the existence of significant mainstream support in America for a violent insurrection.

This group of 21 million who agree both that force is justified to restore Trump and that Biden is an illegitimate president has two additional views that are also on the fringes of mainstream society:

Some people with insurrectionist sentiments hold one of these political views but not the other, suggesting there are multiple ways of thinking that lead a person toward the insurrectionist movement.

Broader support

This latest research reinforces our previous findings, that the Jan. 6 insurrection represents a far more mainstream movement than earlier instances of right-wing extremism across the country. Those events, mostly limited to white supremacist and militia groups, saw more than 100 individuals arrested from 2015 to 2020. But just 14% of those arrested for their actions on Jan. 6 are members of those groups. More than half are business owners or middle-aged white-collar professionals, and only 7% are unemployed.

There is no way to say for sure when – or even whether – these insurrectionists will take action. On Jan. 6, it took clear direction from Donald Trump and other political leaders to turn these dangerous sentiments into a violent reality. But the movement itself is larger and more complex than many people might like to think.

[Get The Conversation’s most important politics headlines, in our Politics Weekly newsletter.]The Conversation

Robert A. Pape, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


21 responses to “21 million Americans say Biden is ‘illegitimate’ and Trump should be restored by violence, survey finds”

  1. Steve

    Frightening – and you wonder how average people can do horrible things.
    Read Daniel Goldehagen’s Hitler’s willing Executioners.

  2. CT-Patriot

    Let’s be clear.. January 6 was NOT an insurrection. Calling it an insurrection is totally false and just mimics MSM.

    Tell a lie or untruth often enough and keep repeating it people will eventually believe it.

    More videos are being released of the January 6 uprising. New videos show clearly people entering the building and milling around. Most kept within the velvet roped areas.

    Those performing violent acts were not supporters. It’s known that many Antifa members dressed as Trump supporters infiltrated the mob. They posted it all over social media and message boards.

    Remember, one victim was totally unarmed, a veteran and was shot point blank by a capital officer with a history of firearm abuse/misuse.

    Her name was Ashley Babbitt.

  3. Ct. V

    And this is why I can’t vote for a Republican unless they actually call out this garbage. I don’t love the Democrats, but they at least don’t propagate a lie that our elections are fixed.

  4. Skip Hagerty

    Sure. This is a page from Saul Alinsky. Paint anyone and everyone that is not a supporter of the current regime as a nut. That way you direct attention away from a pathetically incompetent President who is nothing more than a puppet for a group of US hating radical left wingers.

  5. Barbara Meyer-Mitchell

    Chilling. What incredible damage to the fabric of our democracy…

  6. Steve Mann

    Studies like these and the publication thereof are what continues to divide America. For the sake of optics and furthering the progressive agenda, the right has to be made to appear as a clear and present danger. You see that, right? Insurrection, my butt. Two hundred very angry voters marched on the capital armed with Viking helmets, and shepherd staffs. The lies told from what happened that day are epic. Brian Sitnick was not “bludgeoned” with a fire extinguisher. I know facts are merely obstacles to the agenda, but he had a heart attack. In fact, we all know that the only death that occurred was to an unarmed Trump supporter who was shot by a Capital police officer.

    “Our survey found that many of these 21 million people with insurrectionist sentiments have the capacity for violent mobilization. At least 7 million of them already own a gun, and at least 3 million have served in the U.S. military and so have lethal skills”. The statement is rife with conjecture, and is designed for one thing only: to demonize Trump supporters. And, oh yeah, if you’ve been in the military, you’re a dangerous person. What an insult to those who serve to protect.
    Seven million gun owners are apparently equal dangers to your well-being. Never mind the hunters, the antique collectors the law enforcement personnel, and store owners in certain areas of the country where looting is now viewed as an entitlement. By the same metric, can’t it be said that 100 million automobile owners are a threat to society? Think.

    Ask yourself, why would someone even conduct a survey such as this, if not to demonize part of the population. Does anyone expect an article to be published that says, “Not to worry folks, those January 6th people were just conducing peaceful protest, albeit without burning dumpsters police cars and looted stores. Guess that wouldn’t advance the agenda.

    Wake up folks. React to facts, not rhetoric and false narratives. This article disgusts me. Go ahead. Tell me your life is better now than it was eighteen months ago. Let’s really sort out the truly dangerous people.

  7. M Murray

    Never underestimate the stupidity of Americans

    76 Percent of Democrats Say They’d Vote for a Socialist for President, New Poll Shows

    BY HUNTER MOYLER ON 2/11/20 AT 10:34 AM EST
    Just over three-quarters of Democratic voters said that they would vote to elect a socialist president, according to poll results from Gallup released Tuesday.

    The poll, conducted between January 16 and 29, asked respondents whether they identified as Republican, Democrat or independent and questioned them about their willingness to vote for candidates with “diverse characteristics.”

  8. DryAsABone

    Hopefully COVID will thin the heard.

  9. milbank

    Unbelievable. Even though Biden won by over 7 million popular votes and had 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. Chilling. Frightening.

  10. Piet Marks

    Why is this garbage worth publishing?

  11. John C Miller Jr

    Let me see if I have this right: From a random sample of 1,070 people, you can broad brush 21 million Americans as right wing anarchists with no mention of the left wing Antifa and BLM anarchists who actually burned and destroyed small businesses and did $2 Billion worth of damage during the summer of 2020. I just love the way NON seems to rely on “The Conversation” as a reliable, unbiased source of information. As John McEnroe might say, “You cannot be serious.”

  12. Norwalk High Neighbor

    18 U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or insurrection:
    Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

    … Still Waiting for the head of ANTIFA to be pictured on the FBI website…. LOL.

  13. John O’Neill

    While I am no fan of Trump those who commented above should be uptight, but they might want to think twice about why they’re”scared”. Not one of those who’ve commented mentioned anything about Hilary Clinton’s supporters and their unwillingness to recognize 2016 election…I hazard to guess if this same poll was taken in 2017 we may have had a mirror image of 2021’s. I wonder what some of those above would’ve said if polled in 2017?
    That my friends is what scares me. The fringe elements in our society are not solely found on the right side of the political spectrum.

  14. Michael McGuire

    While we are on the topic of polls some Interesting polling data just in from Rasmussen. Rasmussen is one of the best polling groups in the nation.

    Question to likely voters

    1. Should the debt ceiling be raised? 40% support, 52% oppose.
    2. Do you support the $3.5 trillion spending package? 36% support, 56% against
    3. Do you agree with the following statement ‘is the spending bill a Trojan Horse for socialism? 33% disagree, 59% agree

    For some background roughly 30 % of likely voters are democrats, 30% are republican and the remaining 40%are independents. So it looks like the US electorate is not on board with the current administration.

    I agree that the above is frightening. It’s just that I think the frightening thing is painting 21 million Americans as potentially violent. What good can come of that?

  15. Norwalk High Neighbor

    Rasmussen? Where do I find the Laugh emoji? This is getting to be like that Doonesbury cartoon where you can call in to “My Facts”…

  16. CT-Patriot

    NHN: Well you asked do I will oblige:


    Senate testimony on Antifa from Capital Police Chief:


    Let’s not forget the Antifa member John Sullivan who sold footage to CNN,NBC and seized by FBI.

    Actual footage shows a different angle on the “violent” riot.


    The capital has been attacked in the past by radicals from the Weather Underground, Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn,and let’s not forget who associated with these two Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

    Those who during January 6 march turned violent and assaulted anyone is to be condemned. Period full stop.

  17. Michael McGuire

    Hmmm. A quick, angry response disparaging the source and providing no supportable data to counter the poll other than opinion. I must be getting over the target.

  18. George Orwellian

    Over 50% of the people have no knowledge of the “insurrection” that happened last year with many cities burning like Portland,OR because the MSM or the New York Times decides all that’s fit to print and what’s not fit to print.

  19. Niz

    Let’s keep it simple
    Regan Bushes Clinton’s Obama Trump Biden
    Really were or are not good presidents
    The citizenry is not living good, stats prove it, unemployment Dependency of gov’t aids
    We are getting slowly drained of all the good things this republic stands for
    One legislation at a time
    One national tragedy at a time
    Anyone that does not see that is kinda blind

    From trafficking people (kids missing) drugs guns to 911 mass shootings wars that go in for OIL fracking our own lands … it’s goes on.
    Pay attention folks At least in our city.

  20. CT-Patriot

    Will millions of not billions of costs associated with BLM and Antifa riots burning cities, damaging property, attempting to burn alive police and judges in buildings (Federal may I add) while inside those buildings.

    Countless assaults, property damage, loss of revenue, and on and on.

    Where are the arrests? Where is the money coming from to pay those who suffered?

    Let’s also not forget the crazy Democrats during the Kavanaugh where they were attempting to enter the Supreme Court building?

    Or how about a Senator actually threatening Supreme Court Judges?

    “I want to tell you Gorsuch. I want to tell you Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

    In comparison the level of violence by the Democrats and their black shirt thugs vs a March and entrance to the capital to protest. Those who became violent and assaulted ANYONE is to be condemned, but once you see newly released footage, it’s a whole different story. Even inside, capital police casually pointed directions to people. The police didn’t charge with batons or tear gas.

    Calling January 6 an insurrection is just foolish, but the MSM WANT you to believe. Tell it often, tell it with conviction and people will accept it as true

  21. Norwalk High Neighbor

    CTPat – While I appreciate good “research”, I will have to respectfully say No Thank-Q.

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