Growing up in a white evangelical conservative Republican home, I remember my parents saying that my brothers, as white males, were the most discriminated against demographic in society. People in any other demographic, he said, would get hired before they did. I was also given to believe that evangelical Christians face persecution in the United States today. All of this is to say that even as a nonreligious progressive today, these graphs from a recent PRRI survey weren’t a complete surprise.
That’s right, more white evangelical Protestants believe there is “a lot of” discrimination against Christians than believe there is “a lot of” discrimination against Muslims. Note that these individuals were not asked to make a direct comparison. Rather, they were asked separately to rate how much discrimination a given group faces. 57% of white evangelical Protestants said Christians face “a lot of” discrimination in the U.S. today; 44% said Muslims face “a lot of” discrimination.
There are other things going on here that I find more surprising than the evangelicals’ response. For instance, a third of all Americans overall believe that Christians face “a lot of” discrimination in a country that is three-fourths Christian. Never mind the fact that the United States has never had a non-Christian president, or that our current Congress is 92% Christian. How do 30% of white mainline Protestants believe there is “a lot of” discrimination against Christians in the U.S.? Is this the product of evangelicals winning in a messaging war?
But the perception problem here isn’t just white evangelical Protestants. It’s actually far more troubling and widespread than that.
I’m not sure there was ever a graph that put political differences in more stark relief. Democrats overwhelmingly stated that there is “a lot of” discrimination against blacks (82%), gay and lesbian people (79%), transgender people (79%), immigrants (82%), and Muslims (85%). In comparison, dramatically lower numbers of Republicans stated that there was “a lot of” discrimination against blacks (27%), gay and lesbian people (40%), transgender people (48%), immigrants (41%), and Muslims (45%).
There is also a stark difference in another area as well: While relatively few Democrats believed that whites (19%) or Christians (21%) face “a lot of” discrimination in the U.S. today, larger numbers of Republicans believed that whites (43%) and Christians (48%) face “a lot of” discrimination. That close to half of Republicans believe whites face “a lot of” discrimination points, perhaps, to the success of the “alt-right” in reshaping narratives about race.
Critically, 43% of Republicans indicated that whites face “a lot of” discrimination while only 27% of Republicans said the same about blacks.
Let that sink in.
Republicans are nearly twice as likely to say that white people face a high level of discrimination than they are to say that black people face a high level of discrimination. The Republican Party has lost its damn mind. But let’s not forget how it got here—I grew up in a conservative Republican family, and I remember hearing in the early 2000s that my white brothers would face more discrimination than any other demographic. We can’t pin these statistics on the success of the alt-right alone. The belief that black people have the advantage today and that it is white people who are pushed down is not new to the Republican Party.
In case you’re wondering, my white brothers haven’t had any trouble finding college admission or ready employment.
In the 2016 election, Donald Trump ran on the idea that the American people in general and his predominantly white base in particular had been victimized by the other—whether Muslims, or immigrants, or racially coded crime. Over and over again he told his followers that America had been taken advantage of by other countries and that immigrants were taking their jobs. He pointed to Islamic terror and to violence against police to prop up the idea of white, non-foreign Americans under threat.
If we’re not careful, these poll results will grow only more stark.
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