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Religious Diversity Is On the Ballot This Election

Cover photo of the 2020 American Values Survey published by PRRI.

A new survey reveals deep partisan divides on how Americans view the value of religious diversity as the United States head into the final stretch of the 2020 elections.  

The 2020 American Values Survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reports that only 13 percent of Republicans agree that “they would prefer the U.S. to be made up of people belonging to a wide variety of religions,” compared to 43 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats. 

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About four in ten (38 percent) of all Americans say they would prefer religiously diverse nation, while approximately one-quarter (25 percentagreed with the opposite statement: “I would prefer the U.S. to be a nation primarily made up of people who follow the Christian faith,” Another 36 percent position themselves in the middle of the scale.  

Non-Christian religious Americans (66 percent) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (66 percent) are the two religious' groups in which a majority express a preference for religious diversity. White evangelical Protestants (7 percent) and Hispanic Protestants (15 percent) stand out as the least likely groups to express a preference for religious diversity. White evangelical Protestants are the only group in which a majority (58 percent) express a preference for a mostly Christian country. 

There was, however, good news for the American Muslim population in the survey. 

“This is the first time in PRRI polling that a majority of Americans disagreed that the values of Islam are at odds with American values,” says Robert P. Jones, CEO and Founder of PRRI, during a live webinar about the report hosted by the Brookings Institute on Monday afternoon.  

The survey found that more than three-quarters of Republicans (77 percent) agree that the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life, compared to only 41 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats. Since 2015, the views of Republicans have not changed (76 percent), but far fewer independents and Democrats agree with this sentiment today than five years ago (57 percent and 43 percent, respectively). 

A screenshot from a live webinar hosted by the Brookings Institute on Monday afternoon. Robert P. Jones, CEO, and founder of PRRI, shares data on American perceptions of Muslims and Immigrants as a threat.  

Similarly, there has been a shift in the perspective towards immigrants as a cultural threat since last yearApproximately three in ten Americans (31%) agree that “immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background,” down from 36% in 2019. A majority of Republicans (57 percent) agree with this statement, but fewer express the belief now than did in 2019 (63 percent). Less than three in ten independents (28 percent) and Democrats (15 percent) agree that immigrants are invading our country. 

When asked about racial pluralism in the country, the report found that White Americans are less likely than other Americans to express a preference for racial diversity. 

Almost half of Americans (48 percent) mostly agree that the U.S. should be a diverse country made up of people from all over the world. Four in ten (40 percent) place themselves in the middle of the scale, while just 10 percent say they would prefer the U.S. to be made up of people of western European heritage. These shares have not meaningfully changed since Feb. 2019.  

PRRI pollsters interviewed a random sample of 2,538 U.S. adults living across the 50 states, including the District of Columbia, between September 9 and September 22, for the report. Its margin of error stands at 2.6 percent. 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.