Interesting data cited today in Jennifer Rubin’s op ed piece on the Washington Post website. Her headline focuses on the news of the day, “This is why MAGA nativists are in a panic” Well, natch. That’s what you do to attract readers to the op ed page. But the data, in a Pew Research Center survey released this week, look like they’ll have value when I put together the findings and conclusions of my own study of inclusiveness in Swedish immigrant congregations in the 1850s. I’m especially interested in whatever comparisons the Pew survey data may offer to the anti-immigrant Know-Northing Party, which flared up in the 1854 and 1856 elections, but lost out to the emerging Republican Party and flamed out (to use Lincoln’s phrase) by 1860s.
Rubin’s take on it is partisan — if that’s the right word for a conservative never-Trumper who feels like the Republican Party lurched to the extreme right wing and left her behind — but the trends she mentions seem to be accurate. Rubin’s lede:
Today’s Republican Party is the province that welcomes nativists who reject both the sanctity of elections and the core creed of America (“all men are created equal”). Far too many in the party seek to define the United States as a White, Christian nation and accept the right-wing media fantasyland that perpetuates white grievance and replacement theory. That should be a great source of concern to pro-democracy Americans who understand that our Constitution rejects the premise that race or ethnicity or religion defines our country. The good news is that the MAGA crowd is failing spectacularly to indoctrinate fellow Americans.
Analysis from the Pew Research Center finds: “Compared with 2016 — when a wave of immigration to Europe and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the U.S. made immigration and diversity a major issue on both sides of the Atlantic — fewer now believe that to truly be American, French, German or British, a person must be born in the country, must be a Christian, has to embrace national customs, or has to speak the dominant language.” In the United States, only 35 percent of Americans say criteria such as birthplace or religion are important to a person’s nationality, compared to 55 percent in 2016.
Ater crunching some of the Pew survey’s numbers, Rubin concludes:
First, the reactionary, white-supremacist MAGA message may have twisted and contorted the Republican Party, but it has not convinced Americans as a whole or even many Republicans. The United States continues to become more tolerant and more open to change despite the scourge of social media disinformation, dumb GOP cultural memes and four years of a racist president.
Second, simply because the GOP is losing the argument does not mean it will change course. To the contrary, we have seen many Republicans double down on xenophobia and white grievance. As they fall further out of favor with American public opinion and the population continues to diversify, their desperation, paranoia and retreat into a parallel media universe will accelerate. Like the frustrated American tourist overseas who thinks people will understand him better if he simply speaks more loudly, right-wing media hosts have become more willing to promulgate racist tropes such as replacement theory.
Finally, younger Americans are more inclusive in their views (e.g., less restrictive with regard to who gets to be an American, more aware of actual discrimination, more open to change) than are older Americans. This should not be too surprising, given that younger Americans are themselves more diverse and more progressive generally in their politics.
Lots of good stuff in the linked Pew report itself. Especially significant, perhaps, is the idea that Christians surveyed say they feel like they are discriminated against, especially in America and especially among conservative Americans. I’ll pull some of it out below, and link to it. But first, this snippet:
Depending on the country, people are also divided over which groups are facing discrimination in society today. In the U.S., for example, nearly half say Christians face at least some discrimination, though fewer than a third say the same in the European countries surveyed. Similarly, in France, the public is somewhat evenly divided over whether Jews face discrimination. In every country surveyed, though, a large majority think Muslims face discrimination.
The ideological gap between liberals and conservatives has also widened in recent years over what it takes to be truly American. While liberals and conservatives are equally less likely today to say being Christian is important for being truly American compared to the past, on each of the other criteria asked about, liberals have shifted significantly more than conservatives. For example, 54% of liberals now say it’s important to speak English to be truly American, down from 86% who said the same in 2016. But among conservatives, 91% say it’s important to speak English, largely unchanged from the previous 97%. Still, conservative opinions have shifted markedly on the issue of whether it’s important to have been born in the U.S. and whether immigrants want to adopt the country’s customs. For more on how the U.S. stands out ideologically, see “Ideological divisions over cultural issues are far wider in the U.S. than in the UK, France and Germany.”
Lots of interesting cross tabs, too, including this:
Christians are more likely to say there is a great deal of discrimination against Christians in their society than against non-Christians. They are also more likely to say that being Christian is essential to truly being part of their country’s citizenry. But they are also more likely to say other key factors – including speaking the language and being born in the country – are essential components of national belonging. On other issues, too, they stand apart from non-Christians. For example, they tend to be more likely to say they are proud of their country and to favor sticking to traditions and customs.
The data on perceived discrimination against Christians are especially interesting, and I think they support Rubin’s claim that Republicans buy into “replacement theory.” The survey reports:
Outside of Germany, those who are Christian are more likely to perceive discrimination against people of their faith than those who are not.4 In the U.S., for example, 56% of Christians say there is at least some discrimination against Christians, compared with 30% of non-Christians. The gap is a smaller 15 percentage points in the UK and 11 percentage points in France.
Ideology is related to views of discrimination against Christians in every country surveyed. In the U.S., the UK and Germany, those who place themselves on the right of the ideological spectrum are more likely than those on the left to say there is discrimination against Christians. This divide is particularly wide in the U.S., where about two-thirds (66%) of those on the right say Christians face discrimination, compared with just 21% of those on the left.
Jennifer Rubin, “This is why MAGA nativists are in a panic,” Washington Post, May 7, 2021 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/05/07/no-wonder-nativists-are-panic/.
Laura Silver et al., “Views About National Identity Becoming More Inclusive in U.S., Western Europe,” Pew Research Center, May 5, 2021 https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2021/05/05/views-about-national-identity-becoming-more-inclusive-in-us-western-europe/.