(RNS) — A new survey finds that fewer than a third of Americans, or 29%, qualify as Christian nationalists, and of those, two-thirds define themselves as white evangelicals.
The survey of 6,212 Americans by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution is the largest yet to gauge the size and scope of Christian nationalist beliefs.
It finds that 10% of Americans are avowed Christian nationalists, what the survey calls “adherents,” while an additional 19% are sympathetic to Christian nationalist ideals.
Among both groups combined, nearly two-thirds are white evangelicals. The rest are Protestants who identify as Asian American, mixed race, Black and Hispanic. Majorities of white mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews, members of other non-Christian faiths and unaffiliated Americans, on the other hand, reject or mostly reject Christian nationalism. (The survey calls them “skeptics” and “rejecters.”)
Attention to Christian nationalism has grown rapidly in the past few years, especially in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The term describes a religious and political belief system that argues the United States was founded by God to be a Christian nation. In the survey, supporters of Christian nationalism were identified by their responses to five statements, including: “The U.S. should be declared a Christian nation,” and “God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.” They were then assigned a place on a Christian nationalism scale.
Unlike other studies that have suggested Christian nationalists are only nominally churchgoing, the PRRI/Brookings survey found Christian nationalists are significantly more likely than other Americans to be connected to churches and to say religion is important in their lives.
“There’s a strong positive correlation between frequency of church attendance and likelihood of being a Christian nationalism adherent or sympathizer,” said Robert P. Jones, president and founder of PRRI. “Christian nationalism adherents are more than six times as likely as Christian nationalism rejectors to attend church weekly.”
Avowed Christian nationalists also tend to be older, with about two-thirds of Christian nationalists and their sympathizers over the age of 50, the survey said, and are far less educated than other Americans. Only 20% of Christian nationalism supporters have a four-year college degree, compared with 79% of those who were labeled skeptics or rejecters of Christian nationalism.
Christian nationalism as a worldview is not new but the terms is. Indeed, a third of respondents said they had not heard of the term. For that reason, it’s impossible to say whether the ranks of Christian nationalists have grown over time.
In their book “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States,” sociologists Andrew Whitehead and Sam Perry found that about 20% of Americans strongly embrace Christian nationalist ideas. The PRRI survey is more in line with a 2021 Pew Research survey that found that 10% of Americans are what Pew identified as hard-core “faith and flag” conservatives.