A whole lot of Americans have a whole lot of bad predictions for America

From civil war to economic collapse, a new poll is not exactly inspiring confidence in the country’s future.

Asheboro, United States - DECEMBER 26: A roadside shop run by Mohammed Shafiq, a Pakistani immigrant...
The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Despite the best efforts of back-page astrologers and tarot enthusiasts, the future is decidedly and irrevocably unwritten. Sure, there are trend lines and well-informed prognostications to give us a vague sense of what might be headed our way sometime down the line, but ultimately, when it comes down to it, the question of “what’s next?” is wholly unanswerable until that “next” becomes “now.”

Nevertheless, prognostication is hardwired into our DNA; we simply cannot help but speculate about what the future may or may not hold, no matter how disquieting the predictions are. And according to a newly released poll, many of those predictions — at least in regard to the United States — are pretty damn disquieting indeed.

All told, 37 percent of Americans expect some sort of civil war in the United States within the coming decade, although just who will be participating is somewhat of an open question. According to a YouGov poll released last week, within that group:

  • 40% think a civil war is likely — at least either very or somewhat likely — between Republicans and Democrats
  • 32% think it’s likely between red and blue states
  • 30% think it’s likely between the rich and poor
  • 29% think it’s likely between people of different races
  • 20% think it’s likely between people living in cities and rural areas.

In part, the alarmingly high number of people who think some sort of clash is coming isn’t all that surprising given past polling that suggests just how fractured and violent many corners of American society have become — particularly on the right. Accordingly, this latest YouGov poll indicates that it’s largely (although not exclusively) Republicans who are particularly inclined to predict “dire scenarios” for the country in the coming decade, such as a total economic collapse (65 percent of Republicans, as opposed to 35 percent of Democrats), a “total breakdown” of law and order (49/31), and the government confiscating people’s guns (48/17).

There are, however, a number of scenarios in which Democrats are even more likely to predict doom and gloom in our immediate future. For instance, 37 percent of Democrats predict the U.S. will become a fascist dictatorship in the coming decade, compared to 32 percent of Republicans — although when asked about a communist dictatorship, those numbers flip significantly, with 31 percent of Republicans agreeing, alongside just 13 percent of Democrats. And in a rare moment of bipartisan unity, near identical numbers of Republicans (56 percent) and Democrats (55 percent) predict the U.S. will no longer be a global superpower in the coming years.

Despite the scary number of people who think these things are going to happen, these forecasts of doom and gloom could be either wildly over or underplaying what’s in store for us in the coming years. In fact, with a recent study suggesting 70 percent of Americans are woefully overconfident in their political knowledge, it’s probably best to simply accept that when it comes to the next decade, what happens next is anyone’s guess.