More data points for my Swedes in Roger Williams’ Garden project —

A new survey, summarized today in Politico magazine, shows that white Christian nationalism is strongly linked to age and membership in the Republican Party. A survey conducted in May by the University of Maryland’s Critical Issues Poll found that 61 percent of Republicans “supported declaring the United States a Christian nation,” even though 57 percent of the same subset acknowledged it would be unconstitutional.

Stella Rouse and Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland added that “white grievance is highly correlated with support for a Christian nation.”

These findings don’t come as a big surprise. Commenters on the Capitol blog, which covers Illinois politics and government, routinely (and not always entirely fairly) dismiss the Republican Party as a gathering of “old, angry, white rural folks” (see HERE for a recent example). But the Maryland poll comes from a source with impeccable academic credentials. And its cross tabs document the threat to cultural and religious pluralism I’m researching.

Stella Rouse is professor of government and politics and associate director of the University of Maryland’s Critical Issues Poll. And Shibley Telhami is distinguished scholar-teacher, professor of government and politics at Maryland, and director of the Critical Issues Poll.

Also, their summary links to a useful interview on white Christian nationalism with Phil Gorski of Yale, who literally wrote the book on it. And their lede includes both a summary of recent developments and other links:

Prominent Republican politicians have made the themes critical to their message to voters in the run up to the 2022 midterm elections. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, has argued that America is a Christian nation and that the separation of church and state is a “myth.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia hard-liner, declared: “We need to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian Nationalists.” Amid a backlash, she doubled down and announced she would start selling “Christian Nationalist” shirts. Now Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to be flirting with Christian nationalist rhetoric, as well. [Links in the original.]

This plethora of links, for this ex-academic, is almost as good as an annotated bibliography!

Better, in fact. It’s shorter.

Here are the numbers from the Maryland Critical Issues Poll (the link, in the original, is to a tabular summary of the main data points). Rouse and Telhami summarize them as follows:

Our national poll included 2,091 participants, carried out May 6-16, 2022, with a margin of error of +/- 2.14 percent.

We started by asking participants if they believed the Constitution would even allow the United States government to declare the U.S. a “Christian Nation.” We found that 70 percent of Americans — including 57 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats — said that the Constitution would not allow such a declaration. (Indeed, the First Amendment says Congress can neither establish nor prohibit the practice of a religion.)

We followed up by asking: “Would You Favor or Oppose the United States Officially Declaring the United States to be a Christian Nation?” The findings were striking.

Overall, 62 percent of respondents said they opposed such a declaration, including 83 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of Republicans. Fully 61 percent of Republicans supported declaring the United States a Christian nation. In other words, even though over half of Republicans previously said such a move would be unconstitutional, a majority of GOP voters would still support this declaration.

Again, nothing particularly new in these cross tabs (other than the detail and the rigor, which I’m not used to seeing in mainstream media polls). Rouse and Telhami report:

Not surprisingly, much of the support for declaring the U.S. a Christian nation comes from Republicans who identify themselves as Evangelical or born-again Christians: Seventy-eight percent of this group support the move compared to 48 percent of other Republicans. Among Democrats, a slight majority of those identifying themselves as Evangelical or born-again Christians also backed such a declaration (52 percent), compared to just 8 percent of other Democrats.

The cross tabs also document what we already knew — older voters tend to skew conservative and they tend to identify more as practicing Christians:

Most Republicans in every age group favor designating the U.S. a Christian nation, but even more so in older generations. Fully 71 percent of Silent Generation Republicans and 72 percent of Republican baby boomers would like to see the U.S. officially declared a Christian nation, compared to 33 percent of Silent Generation Democrats and 20 percent of Democratic baby boomers. Among the youngest generations, we see that 51 percent of Millennial Republicans and 51 percent of Generation Z Republicans want the U.S. to be declared a Christian nation, compared to 10 percent of Millennial Democrats and 7 percent of Generation Z Democrats.

Finally, that sense of white grievance shows up in the Maryland poll. Say Rouse and Telhami:

Our polling found that white grievance is highly correlated with support for a Christian nation. White respondents who say that members of their race have faced more discrimination than others are most likely to embrace a Christian America. Roughly 59 percent of all Americans who say white people have been discriminated against a lot more in the past five years favor declaring the U.S. a Christian nation, compared to 38 percent of all Americans. White Republicans who said white people have been more discriminated against also favored a Christian nation (65 percent) by a slightly larger percentage than all Republicans (63 percent).

The rising threat to American democracy was made quite clear during the Jan. 6 insurrection, which featured, not incidentally, significant Christian nationalist imagery. Indeed, as our polling shows, a non-trivial number of Americans want to see the U.S. become a Christian nation— even if they acknowledge that the Constitution prohibits such a designation. Prominent Republican politicians have seized on this sentiment and are openly campaigning on a message of Christian nationalism.

Cite: Stella Rouse and Shibley Telhami, “Most Republicans Support Declaring the United States a Christian Nation,” Politico, Sept. 21, 2022

[Uplinked Sept. 21, 2022]

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