Survey: Two-Thirds of White Evangelicals, Most Republicans Sympathetic to Christian Nationalism
WASHINGTON (February 8, 2023) — A major new national survey conducted jointly by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Brookings Institution finds nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants qualify as either Christian nationalism adherents (29%) or sympathizers (35%), and more than half of Republicans are classified as adherents (21%) or sympathizers (33%). This is a marked contrast from the 1 in 10 Americans as a whole who adhere to the tenets of Christian nationalism and the 19% who are sympathetic.
The report sheds light on the threat Christian nationalism poses to American democracy, reveals the drivers of support for this worldview, and explores how these beliefs intersect with other ideologies such as anti-Black racism, anti-immigrant views, antisemitism, anti-Muslim attitudes, and patriarchal gender roles.
“Christian nationalism is a new term for a worldview that has been with us since the founding of our country — the idea that America is destined to be a promised land for European Christians,” says Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., president and founder of PRRI. “While most Americans today embrace pluralism and reject this anti-democratic claim, majorities of white evangelical Protestants and Republicans remain animated by this vision of a white Christian America.”
To better understand the scope of the threat, PRRI and Brookings surveyed more than 6,000 Americans to create a new measurement of Christian nationalism. Respondents were categorized as Christian nationalism adherents, sympathizers, skeptics, or rejecters based on their responses to a battery of five questions about the role of Christians and Christian values in the United States.
Evangelical identity, church attendance strongly connected to Christian nationalism across racial lines
White evangelical Protestants are significantly more supportive of Christian nationalism than any other group. Nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants qualify as either Christian nationalism adherents (29%) or sympathizers (35%). Notably, evangelical identity is positively correlated with holding Christian nationalist views across racial and ethnic lines. White (29%), Hispanic (25%), and Black (20%) Christians who identify as born-again or evangelical are each about five times as likely to be Christian nationalism adherents as members of the same racial or ethnic groups who identify as Christian but not evangelical (6% of white non-evangelicals, 4% of Black non-evangelicals, and 4% of Hispanic non-evangelicals).
At the other end of the spectrum, more than three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics, Jews, other non-Christian religious Americans (including Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and any other religion), and religiously unaffiliated Americans qualify as either Christian nationalism skeptics or rejecters.
Americans who lean toward supporting Christian nationalism are not, as some have theorized, Christian in name only. Christian nationalism adherents are nearly twice as likely as Americans overall to report attending religious services at least a few times a month (54% vs. 28%).
Link between Republican party affiliation and holding Christian nationalist views
While most Republicans qualify as either Christian nationalism adherents or sympathizers, at least three-quarters of both independents (46% skeptics and 29% rejecters) and Democrats (36% skeptics and 47% rejecters) lean toward rejecting Christian nationalism. Republicans (21%) are about four times as likely as Democrats (5%) or independents (6%) to be adherents of Christian nationalism.
Support for Donald Trump is also highly correlated with support for Christian nationalism. Less than a third of Americans hold a favorable view of the former president, yet more than 7 in 10 (71%) Christian nationalism adherents view him favorably.
Christian nationalism linked to appetite for political, personal violence and authoritarianism
Adherents of Christian nationalism are nearly seven times as likely as rejecters to agree that “true patriots might have to resort to violence to save our country” (40% vs. 16%). Among supporters of such political violence, 12% said they have personally threatened to use or actually used a gun, knife, or other weapon on someone in the last few years. Among all Christian nationalism adherents, 7% say they have threatened to use or actually used a weapon on someone, compared to just 2% of Christian nationalism rejecters.
Further, Christian nationalism supporters display significantly more fondness for authoritarianism. While only about 3 in 10 Americans (28%) agree that “because things have gotten so far off track in this country, we need a leader who is willing to break some rules if that’s what it takes to set thing right,” half of Christian nationalism adherents and nearly 4 in 10 sympathizers (38%) support the idea of an authoritarian leader.
Connections between Christian nationalism and other ideologies
Anti-Black racism, anti-immigrant views, antisemitic views, anti-Muslim views, and patriarchal views of gender roles are each positively associated with Christian nationalism.
- A majority of Christian nationalism adherents (57%) disagree that white supremacy is a major problem in the United States today, and 7 out of 10 reject the idea that past discrimination contributes to present-day hurdles for Black Americans.
- Seven in 10 (71%) Christian nationalism adherents embrace so-called “replacement theory,” the idea that immigrants are “invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background.”
- Nearly a quarter of Christian nationalism adherents (23%) believe the stereotype that Jewish people in America hold too many positions of power, compared to just 9% of Christian nationalism rejecters. Christian nationalism adherents are more than three times as likely as rejecters to believe Jewish people are more loyal to Israel than America (44% vs. 13% respectively).
- Two-thirds (67%) of Christian nationalism adherents say we should prevent people from some majority Muslim countries from entering the United States, compared to only 29% of all Americans.
- Nearly 7 in 10 Christian nationalism adherents (69%) agree that the husband is the head of the household in “a truly Christian family,” and his wife submits to his leadership, compared to only 33% of all Americans.
The correlations between Christian nationalism and anti-Black racism, anti-immigrant views, and anti-Muslim views are significantly stronger among Christian nationalism adherents who identify as white, compared to those who are non-white.
The survey also contained a standalone statement about white Christian nationalism: “God intended America to be a new promised land where European Christians could create a society that could be an example to the rest of the world.” By a margin of two to one, Americans overall reject this assertion (30% agree, 67% disagree). More than 8 in 10 Christian nationalism adherents (83%) agree with this statement, as do two-thirds of Christian nationalism sympathizers (67%). By contrast, only 1 in 5 Christian nationalism skeptics (19%) and 3% of rejecters agree that America was selected by God as a promised land for white Christians.
Other key findings
- While more than a third of Americans report they haven’t heard of the term “Christian nationalism,” those who are familiar with it are more than twice as likely (44% vs. 20%) to view it negatively.
- Americans under age 50 are approximately twice as likely as older Americans to be Christian nationalism skeptics or rejecters.
- There are only modest differences in support for Christian nationalism by race or gender.
- Christian nationalism adherents overwhelmingly express a preference to live in a primarily Christian nation (77%, including 59% who believe this strongly). This preference to live in a predominately Christian nation is only shared by a quarter of Americans (27%).
- A unique embedded survey experiment revealed an estimated 17% of Americans agree with the experimental statement that “the United States is a white Christian nation, and I am willing to fight to keep it that way.”
- There is a strong positive correlation between Christian nationalism and QAnon beliefs, particularly among white Americans.
- In the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, Americans’ views of police diverge along partisan lines. Republicans are 25 percentage points more likely to view their local police favorably compared to the U.S. Capitol Police (91% vs. 66%). Democrats, however, view local and Capitol police favorably in nearly equal measure (77% and 76% respectively).
The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI. The survey was conducted among a representative sample of 5,416 adults (age 18 and up) living in all 50 states in the United States who are part of Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel and an additional 268 who were recruited by Ipsos using opt-in survey panels to increase the sample sizes in smaller states. Additionally, this survey includes 528 additional respondents recruited by Ipsos using opt-in survey panels to increase the number of Republicans in the data. Interviews were conducted online between Nov. 21 and Dec. 14, 2022. The margin of error for the national survey is +/- 1.6 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence, including the design effect for the survey of 1.7. In addition to sampling error, surveys may also be subject to error or bias due to question wording, context, and order effects. The survey was made possible through the generous support of the Foundation to Promote Open Society, with additional support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Wilbur & Hilda Glenn Family Foundation, and the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock.
PRRI is a 501c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.
About Brookings Institution
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