A new YouGov survey conducted on behalf of a democracy watchdog group finds that 66 percent of Republicans living in the South say they’d support seceding from the United States to join a union with other Southern states.
Secession is actually gaining support among Southern Republicans: back in January and February, 50 percent said they’d support such a proposal.
It sure is a good thing there aren’t any troubling historic precedents for what happens when large numbers of Southern conservatives, motivated in large part by a sense of grievance and victimhood, want to break away from the Union.
Those findings come from Bright Line Watch, a group that conducts regular polls of political scientists and the American public to monitor attitudes toward democracy. They’ve started polling this question because “it taps into respondents’ commitments to the American political system at the highest level and with reference to a concrete alternative (regional unions).”
While Southern Republicans are the group most in favor of succession, they’re not the only ones. Across the country, Bright Line Watch finds, people have more favorable views toward secession when their political party is dominant in their region.
In the liberal Northeast, for instance, Democrats are the group most supportive (39 percent) of secession. Ditto for the West Coast. In the Midwest and Great Lakes states, by contrast, Independents like the idea best, reflecting the divided politics of the region. And across the board, these numbers are trending upward.
Bright Line Watch cautions that these responses reflect “initial reactions by respondents about an issue that they are very unlikely to have considered carefully.” It probably makes sense to read these results more as statements of political identity (e.g., “I’m a proud Southerner and I don’t like Joe Biden!”) than as signs of actual intent.
Nevertheless, the sheer number of Americans — particularly Republicans and Independents in the South — willing to turn “blow the whole thing up” into a signal of partisan loyalty is troubling.
Secession gets polled with some frequency, typically in the context of Republicans mad about a Democratic president or vice-versa. But there’s more than just the usual partisan sniping going on here. In 2018 for instance, at the heart of the Trump era, 44 percent of notoriously liberal Californians said they’d support the state withdrawing from the U.S. That’s a lot, but a far cry from the two-thirds of Southern Republicans saying that today.
One major difference this time is that Republican elites are now much more active in ginning up secession passions than their Democratic peers have been. In the past year, GOP officials and lawmakers in Texas, Wyoming, Florida, Mississippi and Michigan have publicly discussed the possibility of seceding from the Union. The most strident voices in conservative media often cheerfully amplify these arguments.
Partisans take their cues on what to believe from party elites, so on one level it’s no surprise that Republican voters in Republican-dominated areas are now getting on board with secession, at least in theory. But it bodes, very, very poorly for the future of American democracy if the trend continues.