A new study from the Public Religion Research Institute has found a number of interesting statistics on the evolution of beliefs in America. Of these, 43% of Americans say “being a Christian” is an important part of being “truly American”. That’s a drop from the 53% who said the same thing in 2015.
Republicans were more likely to agree with the statement, with 63% saying being a Christian was important to being truly American, while only 35% of Democrats agreed. White evangelicals were the most likely to agree, at 76%. Only about half of other religious demographics agree, with Hispanic Catholics (52%), White Protestants (non-Evangelicals) (49%), White Catholics (46%) and other Christians (46%) who say so.
Americans were much more likely to agree that believing in individual freedoms like free speech was important to truly being American, with 96% of all Americans agreeing. Other high performing signs of being truly American were believing that every citizen has the right to vote (94%) and accepting people of various racial and religious backgrounds (92%).
It’s also interesting that the number of Americans who believe their country has a “special role” in human history has fallen off a cliff in recent years. In 2013, nearly two-thirds of Americans agreed with the statement “God has given America a special role in human history.” In the new study, that number dropped to 44%, a drop of 20%.
Not surprisingly, respondents were divided along partisan lines. 68 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement, compared to just 33 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Independents. But the number has declined among all political groups since the 2013 study.
White evangelicals most likely to agree, with 75 percent saying they thought God has a special role for America, but even that is down from 84 percent in 2013. 67 percent of black Protestants, 50 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 55 percent of “other Christians” also agreed with the statement.
Mainline Protestants and White Catholics were significantly less likely to agree, with both at 46 percent – a huge drop from 75 percent and 60 percent respectively in 2013. During This time, only 29 percent of Americans in other religious groups and 18 percent of Americans not religiously agree.
It’s unclear exactly what PRRI meant by the question, which may explain the wild discrepancy. Most American Christians believe that God has a special role for all people and nations, so there is nothing particularly new about agreeing with the poll question. But then there is a tendency of thought in American Christianity that sets the United States apart. uniquely like a “shining city on a hill,” as President Ronald Reagan put it. This thought fueled some insidious forms of Christian nationalism and led to all kinds of problems. But without PRRI having a bit more clarity in its line of questioning, it’s not entirely clear whether this statistic should be troubling or not.