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Survey: Who Americans Blame for Insurrection Depends on Their Faith

U.S. Capitol
Supporters of President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(RNS) — A new survey finds white evangelicals are far more likely than most other religious groups to blame left-wing activists for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Other white Christian groups are split on the question, which allowed for multiple answers, while Black Protestants are more likely to point to white supremacists and former President Donald Trump.

According to a survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute on Thursday (Sept. 16), small minorities of white evangelical Protestants said Trump (26%) and Republican leaders (16%) bear “a lot” of responsibility for that attack.

Slightly more were willing to point to white supremacist groups (37%) and conservative media platforms that spread conspiracy theories and misinformation (34%) as the cause for the assault.

Meanwhile, white evangelicals were the faith group most willing (57%) to blame “liberal or left-wing activists (e.g. Antifa)” for the attack, referring to left-wing anti-fascist or “antifa” groups. This conspiracy theory was repeated in the days after the attack by evangelical Christian leader the Rev. Franklin Graham and by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani  but has been refuted by FBI officials and the rioters themselves.

Support for the idea appears to have increased since the conservative American Enterprise Institute conducted a separate poll in February, which found that 49% of white evangelical Protestants believed the antifa claim was completely or mostly true.

Related article: Violence at the Capitol Overshadows Jericho March’s Agenda

In the PRRI poll, very few evangelicals blamed white Christian conservative groups (8%) for the attack, despite the preponderance of Christian imagery and religious expression visible during the insurrection.

Their views most closely resembled that of Republicans overall. A majority (61%) blame liberal or left-wing activists for the attack, whereas minorities of the group blame white supremacist groups (30%), conservative media platforms that spread conspiracy theories and misinformation (27%), Trump himself (15%), Republican leaders (9%) or white conservative Christian groups (8%).

The results were roughly reversed among Democrats, 89% of whom blamed Trump.

White nonevangelical Protestants, who are also categorized as mainline Protestants, were more split on the question of who was responsible for the insurrection. Roughly half (49%) blamed white supremacist groups, with slightly less pointing to conservative media platforms that spread conspiracy theories and misinformation (45%), liberal or left-wing activists (44%) and Donald Trump (43%).

White Catholics were similarly divided, with a slight majority saying the cause was white supremacist groups (54%) and conservative media platforms that spread conspiracy theories and misinformation (54%). Exactly half (50%) cast blame on Trump, and 44% listed liberal or left-wing activists as culpable.

The responses differed sharply from that of Black Protestants, a full 80% of whom blamed white supremacists for the insurrection. So too did majorities of Hispanic Catholics (73%), Hispanic Protestants (59%), Jewish Americans (69%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (65%) and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (56%).

Black Protestants were also the religious group most likely to lay responsibility for the attack at the feet of Trump (79%). They were followed by other Christians (74%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (69%), Hispanic Catholics (69%), Hispanic Protestants (64%), other non-Christian religious Americans (64%) and Jewish Americans (57%). Latter-day Saints were split, with 48% blaming Trump.

Related article: Evangelical Leaders React to ‘unAmerican’ Capitol Riot

Several groups were keen to blame the attack on conservative media platforms that spread conspiracy theories — namely, religiously unaffiliated Americans (67%), Black Protestants (66%), other Christians (65%), Hispanic Catholics (59%), other Protestants of color (58%), Jewish Americans (55%) and Latter-day Saints (51%).

The only religious category to resemble the white evangelical tendency to accuse liberal or left-wing groups for instigating the insurrection were other Protestants of color (54%), but that group was even more likely to blame Trump and white supremacist groups (65%).

This article originally appeared on Religion News Service.

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Jack Jenkins is a national reporter for Religion News Services. His work has appeared or been referenced in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, MSNBC and elsewhere. After graduating from Presbyterian College with a Bachelor of Arts in history and religion/philosophy, Jack received his Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University with a focus on Christianity, Islam and the media. Jenkins is based in Washington, D.C.