WASHINGTON (RNS) — Three-quarters of Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction, and the majority of many religious groups agree with that sentiment, a new report shows. But they don’t all agree on exactly what went wrong.
The 2022 American Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that religious Americans generally have a negative view of the state of the country, ranging from 93 percent of white Evangelical Protestants to 59 percent of black Protestants.
“While most Americans are in favor of progress, a sizable minority long for a country reminiscent of the 1950s, embrace the idea that God created America as a new promised land for European Christians, view newcomers as a threat to the American culture and believes that society has become too soft and feminine,” states the 60-page report.
“This minority is primarily made up of self-proclaimed Republicans, white evangelical Protestants, and white Americans with no college education.”
PRRI president Robert P. Jones, who discussed the study at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Oct. 27, said the results struck him despite spending years studying American cultural and political patterns.
“It still strikes me that in terms of party, race, religion we are factions and worlds apart in many ways,” he said. “We have the two political parties defending essentially different histories, living in different realities, and even promoting two essentially incompatible views of America’s future.”
PRRI’s research addressed questions about race, sexuality, abortion and immigration, as well as feelings about the country’s origins.
About a third (31 percent) of Americans agree with the statement, “God intended America to be a new promised land where European Christians could create a society that could set an example for the rest of the world.”
Those polled who said they believed that God intended America to become a new promised land for European Christians are more than twice as likely as those who disagree to say that genuine American patriots may have to take refuge. take to violence (32 percent versus 14 percent).
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Half of white evangelical Protestants agree, while smaller percentages of other religious groups do: 37 percent of white Protestants, 36 percent of white Catholics, 32 percent of Hispanic Catholics, 22 percent of black Protestants and non-Christian religious Americans and 16 percent of the non-religious.
Americans are divided on whether immigrants to the United States are a threatening (40 percent) or a reinforcing factor to society (55 percent), with white Christian subgroups significantly more likely than others in the country to side with the idea that newcomers from other countries are a threat.
White evangelical Protestants, at 51 percent, are the only faith group where a majority say immigrants are “invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background.”
By far among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants (61 percent) also agree that “society as a whole has become too soft and feminine.” Americans are generally divided on this idea, with 42 percent agreeing and 53 percent disagreeing.
The investigation found that the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a key motivator to vote in the midterm elections. That ruling overturned Roe v. Wade, who ruled in 1973 that abortion was a constitutional right.
About 50 percent of white Evangelical Protestants, black Protestants and white Catholics said they were more likely to vote after the June ruling, as were 48 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans, 47 percent of non-Christian religious Americans and 45 percent of white Protestants.
A clear minority across the board — from 35 percent of white evangelicals to 9 percent of religiously unaffiliated — support laws that make it illegal to cross state lines to obtain an abortion in a state where the procedure is allowed. .
People of different religious affiliations varied in what they considered top priorities for midterm votes, but majorities of many faith categories cited “the health of our democracy” as crucial to their vote.
A majority of Americans planning to go to the polls (57 percent) cited the health of our democracy and the rising cost of housing and other everyday expenses as critical to their vote.
The survey found divergent views among religious Americans on racial and LGBTQ issues.
When asked whether “generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for black Americans to make their way out of the lower class,” white Christians were significantly less likely to agree, while the majority of black Protestants, religiously, did not. Affiliated Americans, non-Christian-religious Americans, and Hispanic Catholics agreed.
Most White Evangelical Protestants, Black Protestants, Other Christians, White Catholics, and White Main Protestants say there are only two genders (female and male), compared with smaller percentages of Hispanic Catholics, religiously unaffiliated Americans, and religious non-Christians .
The survey was based on a representative sample of 2,523 adults in all 50 US states and was conducted online Sept. 1-11. It has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.