An increasing number of American Christians believe strongly that the United States is a Christian nation, that it has not oppressed minorities and that it has been specifically chosen by God to lead the world, according to a recent Barna survey.
The January 2021 study also uncovered a shift in attitudes over the past three years among American adults in general about the nation’s immigrant roots.
“When it comes to perceptions of America historically having been a nation of immigrants, both U.S. adults and self-identified Christians shifted slightly away from their strong agreement in 2019. This question stirs the greatest movement, with 6% of both U.S. adults and self-identified Christians moving from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘somewhat agree,” Barna said in an article titled “Did 2020 Shift Americans’ Perceptions of U.S. History?”
The survey’s June 30 release comes at a time of rising Christian nationalism, white supremacy and rampant opposition to efforts to address the nation’s racist past and present. The span of the two surveys covers the last three years of the Trump administration, which touted an “America first” policy that demonized immigrants and promoted Christian nationalism.
According to Barna, the survey was conducted in an effort to update its 2019 research into the way Americans, including those who identify as Christians, understand the relationship between their nation, faith and immigrant history. Barna said it wanted to gauge how opinions may have been influenced by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the emergence of a racial-justice uprising, a divisive election season and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
What researchers found was that Christians had moved slightly more on most of the issues than the wider adult population: “Self-identified Christians are consistently more likely than all U.S. adults to view America as historically Christian, blessed and chosen by God, made up of immigrants, a leader to the rest of the world and not oppressive to minorities.”
Christians who strongly agreed that the U.S. historically has been a nation of immigrants declined from 50% to 44% from 2019 to 2021, Barna reported. Among all adults, that perception dropped from 51% to 45% during that period.
What researchers found was that Christians had moved slightly more on most of the issues than the wider adult population.
There is somewhat more disparity between the overall adult population and Christians when asked if the nation has a history of oppressing minorities, with the all adults holding steady at 22% and Christians declining from 19% to 17% between the two surveys.
Barna also found that Christians increasingly feel strongly that the U.S. has been a Christian nation throughout its history, jumping from 29% to 33% since 2019. For all adults, 26% agreed strongly in both surveys while those who somewhat agree decreased from 32% to 30%.
Gaps also emerged when Americans were asked if they believe the U.S. has been blessed by God throughout its history. The survey found that 38% of Christians strongly agreed, up from 36% in 2019. Among all U.S. adults, the belief decreased from 29% to 28%. Still, Christians are 10 points more likely than the general adult population to believe the nation has been blessed by God.
When presented the statement that the U.S. is divinely chosen, 24% of Christians strongly agreed, a 4% increase over 2019, Barna said. By comparison, only 18% of U.S. adults agreed with that opinion, up 1% from before.
Differences of opinion on these questions become more glaring when political affiliations are factored into the answers, Barna said. “Segmenting the data by political party — specifically, looking at Democrats and Republicans—shows great divides.”
Differences of opinion on these questions become more glaring when political affiliations are factored into the answers.
In 2021, Barna found that 41% of Republicans strongly agreed America is a Christian nation — the same percentage as 2019. Only 19% of Democrats shared that view in 2019, compared to 21% this year.
The percentage of Republicans who strongly agree the nation has been blessed by God decreased from 44% to 39% during the past three years, while Republicans who believe strongly that the nation has been chosen by God dipped from 26% to 25% in that same period.
For Democrats, the numbers in these categories have been much lower, but also grew. Those who strongly agree the country is divinely blessed rose from 21% to 25%, while those who believe America is chosen by God jumped from 11% to 16% from 2019-2021.
Democrats also shifted in their views of immigrants during the last three years, with those identifying America historically as a nation of immigrants dropping from 60% to 52%. Republicans who strongly agreed held steady in this category at 41%.
Members of both parties differed greatly when asked if the United States has been oppressive of minorities. According to Barna, 29% of Democrats strongly agreed in 2019 compared to 33% this year. Only 9% of Republicans shared that view in 2021, down from 10% before.