A new report from the Public Religion Research Institute and Brookings offers evidence: Almost half of Americans say discrimination against Christians is as big of a problem as discrimination against other groups, including blacks and minorities.
Three-quarters of Republicans and Trump supporters said this, and so did nearly eight out of 10 white evangelical Protestants. Of the latter group, six in 10 believe that although America once was a Christian nation, it is no longer—a huge jump from 2012.
Polling data can be split up in a million different ways. It’s possible to sort by ethnicity, age, political party, and more.
The benefit of sorting by religion, though, is that it highlights people’s beliefs: the way their ideological and spiritual convictions shape their self-understanding.
This survey suggests that race is not enough to explain the sense of loss some white Americans seem to feel about their country, although it’s part of the story; the same is true of age, education level, and political affiliation. People’s beliefs seem to have a distinctive bearing on how they view changes in American culture, politics, and law—and whether they feel threatened.
No group is more likely to express this fear than conservative Christians.
One aspect of American fear that’s been talked about a lot during this presidential-election cycle is fear of the other, from the Mexican immigrants who would be kept out by a wall to the Muslim refugees who would be banned from fleeing here from their homes abroad.
That fear seems to fade, though, if Americans recognize a religious kinship with people they perceive as foreign.
Forty-six percent of those surveyed said immigration from Mexico and Central America has been too high in recent years.
When asked the same question about immigrants from “predominantly Christian countries,” though, only 10 percent of people said immigration has been too high.
The irony is that this is essentially the same question, phrased two different ways: Latin American countries are overwhelming Christian—in many places, even more so than the United States. When Americans think of those immigrants as Christians, rather than foreign nationals, they’re more likely to open their arms in welcome.