Do 29 percent of Americans really think an armed revolution might be necessary in the next few years?

Brian Lieter links to the following story, concluding “Large numbers of Americans are completely nuts”:

Supporters and opponents of gun control have very different fundamental beliefs about the role of guns in American society. Overall, the poll finds that 29 percent of Americans think that an armed revolution in order to protect liberties might be necessary in the next few years, with another five percent unsure. However, these beliefs are conditional on party. Just 18 percent of Democrats think an armed revolution may be necessary, as opposed to 44 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents.

While Leiter may be right that large numbers of Americans are nuts, I’m not sure 29 percent of Americans are completely nuts. Not that it wouldn’t be completely nuts to think an armed revolution may be necessary in the next few years, but I’m skeptical of whether 29 percent of Americans really believe that.

There’s a parallel here to questions about whether religious believers, say, really believe they’ll go to heaven when they die (if so, why do they wear their seat belts?) Similarly, my guess is most of those 29 percent don’t act like they think there’s a significant chance of armed revolution (or death squads or whatever) in the next few years.

Sure, they may have started stocking up on guns and ammo from the day Obama was elected in 2008, but if I thought there was a significant chance we’d be needing an armed revolution in the next few years, getting a gun wouldn’t be the main thing I’d be thinking about, because I’m not dumb enough to think having a gun would be enough to magically make being in the middle of a revolution OK.

Instead, I’d be thinking about: hiding a bunch of cash in my dresser drawer, stocking up on food and water so I could hide in my basement for awhile if things got really bad, avoiding making myself a target for the death squads, moving to Australia, if I decide not to move to Australia then at least figuring out how I might evade any unexpected barriers to fleeing to Canada in an emergency. I’m not an expert on these things, but my guess is that that would be closer to the behavior of people who are actually at risk of having to live through an armed revolution.

Claiming to believe to believe you think we might need an armed revolution in the next few years, then, mostly isn’t something you do because you really believe it, deep down. It’s something you do to express how much you hate Obama, or maybe just the government in general. And if you stock up on guns and ammo to “prepare” for what you claim to believe is coming, it’s probably mostly macho posturing, because it’s not what you’d be doing if you actually believed that.

Related: Scott Alexander on Noisy Poll Results And Reptilian Climatologists From Mars

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  • JohnH2

    You apparently aren’t familiar with the prep-er movement; you may wish to look into them and then reevaluate you assessment. I would say that 29% is probably slightly low, possibly because it specifically asks about armed revolt.

    • Chris Hallquist

      I’m aware that there are people out there making somewhat serious preparations for everything going to hell. But my guess is that they’re significantly less than 29% of the population, not more.

  • f_galton

    It can’t happen here!

  • stanz2reason

    There’s also a stark difference between possible (greater than 0%) probable (significantly greater than %) and likely (as in greater than 50%). Over, say, a 10 year period id gauge the odds of significant armed revolution in the US as possible, though improbable and highly unlikely.

  • Pete

    With our politicians nothing but Corporate lackey’s, I’d say it won’t be long before the American people overtake the capitol and replace their ‘leaders’ with average citizens who are willing to work for the well being of its masses rather than a few CEO’s. It’s high time we separate Corporate from State by means of force. Voting is redundant.