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Politics Podcast: How Likely Is Another Civil War?

In the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, academics and journalists have increasingly taken seriously the possibility of more political violence in the U.S. And polls suggest Americans are worried about this too. In a December University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll, 62 percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat concerned about violence in the 2024 presidential election.

In her new book, “How Civil Wars Start: And How To Stop Them,” University of California at San Diego political scientist Barbara F. Walter goes a step further. After spending her career studying civil wars abroad, she writes, “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” It’s a bold suggestion, and in this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, we interrogate it. Sure, America is polarized, but is it headed toward war?

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Galen Druke is FiveThirtyEight’s podcast producer and reporter.