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Poll: More Religious Americans Support the Use of Political Violence

By Fiona André
pastor charged capitol riot nationalism political violence
A supporter of then-President Donald Trump carries a Bible outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Support for political violence and concern over the state of American democracy are both on the rise, with 75% of Americans believing the future of democracy is at risk in the next presidential election, according to a report released Wednesday by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution.

For the first time this year, support for political violence has peaked above 20%, with 23% of Americans believing “true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save the country,” versus 15% in 2021.

One-third of white evangelical Protestants support the idea, significantly more than any other religious group.

The findings appear in the 14th edition of PRRI’s annual American Values Survey, in which 2,525 American adults were asked their views on economic and cultural issues ahead of the 2024 election.

Americans who believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump are more likely to support the use of political violence than those who don’t think so (46% versus 13%). Among those who believe in the replacement conspiracy theory, which holds that immigrants or Jews are coming to the United States to dilute white Americans’ cultural dominance, 41% support using political violence.

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political violence
“Support for Political Violence in Response to Direction of the Country, by Party and Religious Affiliation” (Graphic courtesy of PRRI)

According to the survey, 38% of Americans believe the country needs an authoritarian figure to put the country back on the right track. Hispanic Catholics support this idea far more than any other religious groups, with 51% agreeing with the statement above. Black Protestants, at 35%, are the least likely to agree.

authoritarianism
“Support for Authoritarianism in Response to Direction of the Country, by Party and Religious Affiliation” (Graphic courtesy of PRRI)

At a panel discussion organized by the Brookings Institution on Wednesday, Lilliana Mason, associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute, noted that the findings could be the consequence of each party viewing their political opponents as more violent. “It is important to remember that these numbers can also be context-dependent,” said Mason.

The survey also delves into American’s adhesion to white Christian nationalist ideology. According to 33% of Americans, God gave America to European Christians as a promised land where they could create an exemplary society. More than half of white evangelical Protestants agree with this statement; 77% believe the founders intended to create a Christian nation.

Americans who believed God wanted the U.S. to be a promised land for European Christians in turn are more likely (39%) to support the use of political violence to save the country than those who disagree (16%).

For 55% of Americans, American culture has changed for the worse since the 1950s. White Christians believe it is the case more than any other religious groups: 77% of white evangelical Protestants, 60% of white mainline or nonevangelical Protestants and 57% of white Catholics think American culture has changed for the worse since the 1950s.

Joy Reid, an MSNBC host and political analyst who participated in the panel discussion, said the increasing support for political violence results from competing visions of American society. Many voters’ main concerns are cultural issues that can’t be solved politically. “People do not have confidence in democracy as a way to solve their fundamental concerns,” said Reid.

“What’s so striking here is we’re having elections in two different countries,” said Eugene J. Dionne, chair and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, referring to the two parts of a divided U.S.

The survey also examined America’s main concerns out of 20 political issues, including immigration, racial inequality, LGBTQ rights and school curriculums. For 62% of Americans, the increasing cost of housing and everyday expenses is a critical issue, followed by crime and health care.

critical issues 2024 election
“Critical Issues, by Party Affiliation” (Graphic courtesy of PRRI)

The survey was conducted between Aug. 25-30 and has a margin error of 2.19 percentage points. The confidence level is 95%.

Fiona André is a contributor to Religion News Service.

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7 Responses

  1. I wonder if this has to do with Trump and 1/6/2021. He created the violence that day as he and his supporters-some claiming to be “christians” attempted to overturn the 2020 legitimate election of Joe Biden.

  2. “true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save the country”

    These types of comments are of no surprise when pastors and clergy have echoed absurdly false claims about election fraud and that god “is the one who raises up those in authorities” (but somehow it’s only one side’s authority believed to be “raised up by god).

    Christian Nationalism is extremism. There are no if, ands, or buts about it. The hypocrisy of saying that “sharia law is wrong” while wishing for a christian version of it is mind boggling.

  3. “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews, for what they were and summoned men to fight against them, and who, God’s truth! Was greatest not as a sufferer, but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian, and as a man, I read through the passage, which tells us how the Lord at last rose in his might and seized the scourge to drive out of the temple, the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight for the world against the Jewish poison… As a Christian, I have a duty to my own people.”  

    Hitler said this in a speech on April 12, 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922- August 1939. Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20. Oxford University Press, 1942).

    The republican party is completely compromised and is following a very sinister, corrupt and dangerous path. Christian nationalism is extremism.
    Teach me or repeat me.
    -History.

  4. We are told to put away the war horse and that our battles belong to the Lord God Almighty. We are not to put our trust in princes but God alone for victory and deliverance from evil. We are to call upon his name, confess our sin, turn from our wicked ways and he promises to heal our land. Politics nor political leaders can save this nation.

  5. How much destruction have “Christian Nationalists” wrought upon the country?

    The BLM riots of 2020 ended up with 25 deaths, hundreds, if not thousands injured, 13,000 arrests and billions in destruction… most major cities still are experiencing significant lawlessness.

    Today anti semitic parades and assaults are in many cities and even more colleges.

    It doesn’t take much thinking to see who is behind all of this.

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