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Christian nationalism's support is strongest in rural, conservative states

A giant cross next to a small church in Vance, Alabama. The state is among those where views supporting Christian nationalism are the strongest in the country, according to a new survey.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
AFP via Getty Images
A giant cross next to a small church in Vance, Alabama. The state is among those where views supporting Christian nationalism are the strongest in the country, according to a new survey.

In states including North Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia, half or nearly half of residents support the view that Christians should dominate all areas of American society, including its laws, according to a new survey about the influence of Christian nationalism by the Public Religion Research Institute, based on interviews with more than 22,000 people.

The nonprofit's latest research mapped support across all 50 states for a set of religious beliefs that used to belong to the fringes of Christianity in the United States.

Nationally, about three in ten Americans believe, or at least sympathize with, ideas that claim the U.S. is a Christian nation and that the country's laws should draw from Christian values.

People who support Christian nationalism have become a defining feature of former President Donald Trump's political movement, according to Robert P. Jones, PRRI's president and founder and author of the recent book, The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future.

Recently, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled frozen embryos have the same legal protections as people. Its chief justice, Tom Parker, quoted from the Bible in his concurring opinion.

"And on the same day that the ruling was issued, he appeared on an evangelical podcast, really talking about, you know, his position, how he was using his position in authority to really exercise this kind of dominion and push it into the legal realm," said Jones.

Today, white evangelical Protestants are the most supportive of Christian nationalist views and make up a third of the Republican party. According to PRRI's survey, 66% of white evangelical Protestants support or sympathize with Christian nationalism.

These views are also popular among Hispanic Protestants and Latter-day Saints, according to the survey.

"At the heart of that movement is this thing called the Seven Mountains Mandate, and it is this idea that Christians are to take control of all sectors of society, government, even media and entertainment," Jones said.

Chief Justice Parker specifically cited that language in a podcast released the same day as the ruling he authored about in vitro fertilization was released.

Other policy priorities for Christian nationalists include restrictions on abortion access, LGBTQ rights and strict immigration limits, Jones said. PRRI also found they are roughly twice as likely as other Americans to believe political violence can be justified.

"From that worldview, there really aren't political opponents. What there are is existential enemies. And I think that's also kind of poison to the fabric of democracy in the country," said Jones.

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Corrected: February 28, 2024 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that about a third of the Republican party believes or sympathizes with the ideas of Christian nationalism. In fact, PRRI's research says that white evangelical Protestants make up a third of the Republican party.
Lisa Hagen
Lisa Hagen is a reporter at NPR, covering conspiracism and the mainstreaming of extreme or unconventional beliefs. She's interested in how people form and maintain deeply held worldviews, and decide who to trust.