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More than half of Republicans support Christian nationalism, according to a new survey

Voters mark their ballots for the mid-term election Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022 at Lawrenceville Road United Methodist Church in Tucker, Ga.
Ben Gray
/
AP
Voters mark their ballots for the mid-term election Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022 at Lawrenceville Road United Methodist Church in Tucker, Ga.

Long seen as a fringe viewpoint, Christian nationalism now has a foothold in American politics, particularly in the Republican Party — according toa new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution.

Researchers found that more than half of Republicans believe the country should be a strictly Christian nation, either adhering to the ideals of Christian nationalism (21%) or sympathizing with those views (33%).

Robert P. Jones, the president and founder of the nonpartisan PRRI, has been surveying the religious world for many years now. Recently, Jones said his group decided to start asking specifically about Christian nationalism.

"It became clear to us that this term 'Christian nationalism' was being used really across the political spectrum," he said. "So not just on the right but on the left and that it was being written about more by the media."

I am a Christian and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.

Christian nationalism is a worldview that claims the U.S. is a Christian nation and that the country's laws should therefore be rooted in Christian values. This point of view has long been most prominent in white evangelical spaces but lately it's been getting lip service in Republican ones, too.

During an interview at a Turning Point USA event last August, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said party leaders need to be more responsive to the base of the party, which she claimed is made up of Christian nationalists.

"We need to be the party of nationalism," she said. "I am a Christian and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists."

Jones said until now it's been difficult to tell how prominent Christian nationalism is within the Republican Party.

"There was some data out there but what we saw as a need was to have a real set of data that would quantify what that term means, how many Americans really adhere to it," he said. "And we also wanted to have a more nuanced view — not just people who are hard adherents but maybe people who are sympathetic."

Jones said this is just the beginning of his group's effort to track the prevalence of these views in American views. He says over time we will have a better idea of whether these views are becoming more or less widely held.

Americans broadly don't adhere to Christian nationalism

While a majority of Republicans currently either adhere to or sympathize with Christian nationalism, the survey found that this remains a minority opinion nationwide.

According to the PRRI/Brookings study, only 10% of Americans view themselves as adherents of Christian nationalism and about 19% of Americans said they sympathize with these views.

Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a history professor at Calvin University, said it's important to note that this is not a novel ideology in American families.

"These ideas have been widely held throughout American history and particularly since the 1970s with the rise of the Christian Right," she said.

Du Mez said these views are mostly a reaction to changing demographics, as well as cultural and generational shifts in the U.S. As the country has become less white and Christian, she said these adherents want to hold on to their cultural and political power.

In fact, according to the survey, half of Christian nationalism adherents and nearly 4 in 10 sympathizers said they support the idea of an authoritarian leader in order to keep these Christian values in society.

"At its root there are some deeply antidemocratic impulses here," Du Mez said. "So, to see that more than half of one political party is committed to Christian nationalism I think explains a lot in terms of our ability to achieve much bipartisan agreement."

The survey also found correlations between people who hold Christian nationalist views as well as Anti-Black, anti-immigrant, antisemitic views, anti-Muslim and patriarchal views.

Republicans may need to reckon with ideology in its ranks

Most Christian nationalists – either adherents or sympathizers – either agree or strongly agree with the notion that they should live in a country full of other Christians.

Tim Whitaker, founder of The New Evangelicals, grew up in the church and now spends his life trying to detangle these kinds of views from the evangelical faith.

"We need to understand that the world of Christian nationalism largely rejects pluralism, which this study shows," he said. "Most Christian nationalists — either adherents or sympathizers — either agree or strongly agree with the notion that they should live in a country full of other Christians."

Whitaker said he has faith that most Americans will continue to reject these ideas when they hear them, but he's worried about the outsized influence these views have in the Republican Party.

"The reality is that a lot of these folks — especially the adherents — are very militant in this belief that God has given them a mandate to rule over the nation," he said. "And so for them, I think that compromise is a sign of weakness and the GOP needs to understand what they are dealing with."

According to the survey, adherents of Christian nationalism say they will go to great lengths to impose their vision of the country. Jones with PRRI said they found adherents are far more likely to agree with the statement: "true patriots might have to resort to violence to save our country."

"Now is that everyone? No. It's not everyone," Jones said. "But it's a sizeable minority that is not only willing to declare themselves opposed to pluralism and democracy — but are also willing to say, 'I am willing to fight and either kill or harm my fellow Americans to keep it that way.'"

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: February 14, 2023 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the Brookings Institution as the Brookings Institute.
Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.