35-40% of respondents under 50 approve of “the assassination of a politician who harms the country or our democracy”

It is according to a Southern Poverty Law Center Pollconducted by Tulchin Research (disclaimer: FiveThirtyEight.com Gives Tulchin Low Ratings, at least as to his campaign polls). The poll was “a national survey of 1,500 adults aged 18 and over that was conducted via an online panel”, so I would expect there were probably only around 150 respondents in each of the demographic categories (such as “Younger Republican Men”), which would mean a margin of error of about 8%, so I’d be hesitant to make much of (for example) young Republican women appearing to support assassination more young Republican men, young Republican women more than young Democratic women, or young Democratic men more than young Republican men.

But it appears that among those under 50 there is around 35-40% support, with no detectable overall difference between Democrats (average 38-54%) and Republicans (37-56%).

I must say that, from the point of view of abstract morality, assassinating political figures could be defensible. This is certainly the case in despotic governments; but some argue that, even in democratic regimes, people’s moral right to self-defense extends to lethal force (whether in the form of violent revolution or more targeted assassination) used to defend against sufficiently serious threats to liberty.

But given the extraordinary damage a culture of political assassination can do to both democracy and freedom, I have to be pretty firmly on the “no” side here. And, if the survey is accurate, the results strike me as extremely disturbing, as for both sides of the aisle.

If I learn more about the margins of error for each subcategory or the specific quiz language, I’ll post an update.

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