BOSTON – The failed Scottish vote to pull out from the United Kingdom has stirred secessionist hopes for some in the United States, where almost a quarter of people are open to their state leaving the union, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll has found.
Some 23.9 percent of Americans polled from Aug. 23 through Sept. 16 said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state breaking away, while 53.3 percent of the 8,952 respondents strongly opposed or tended to oppose the notion.
The urge to sever ties with Washington cuts across party lines and regions, although Republicans and residents of rural Western states are generally warmer to the idea than Democrats and Northeasterners, according to the poll.
Anger with President Barack Obama’s handling of issues such as health care reform and the rise of Islamic State militants drives some of the feeling, with Republican respondents citing dissatisfaction with his administration as coloring their thinking.
But others said long-running Washington gridlock had prompted them to wonder if their state would be better off striking out on its own, a move no U.S. state has tried in the 150 years since the bloody Civil War, which led to the end of slavery in the South.
Falling public approval of the Obama administration, attention to the Scottish vote and the success of activists who accuse the U.S. government of overstepping its authority — such as the self-proclaimed militia members who flocked to Nevada’s Bundy ranch earlier this year during a standoff over grazing rights — is driving up interest in secession, experts said.
“It seems to have heated up, especially since the election of President Obama,” said Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, who has studied secessionist movements.
Republicans were more inclined to support the idea, with 29.7 percent favoring it, compared with 21 percent of Democrats.
By region, the idea was least popular in New England, the cradle of the Revolutionary War, with just 17.4 percent of respondents open to their state pulling out.
It was most popular in the Southwest, where 34.1 percent of respondents back the idea.
That region includes Texas, where an activist group is calling for the state’s legislature to put the secession question on a statewide ballot.
Even in Texas, some respondents said talk about breaking away was more of a sign of their anger with Washington than evidence of a real desire to go it alone.
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