In America, Religious Conservatives Tend to Be More Tolerant Than Their Secular Counterparts

September 27, 2018 | Emily Ekins
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Having conducted a number of surveys of American conservatives, and especially those who say they voted for Donald Trump in the last election, Emily Ekins concluded that there are significant differences between the believers and the non-believers among them:

Churchgoing Trump voters have more favorable feelings toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims, and immigrants compared with nonreligious Trump voters. This holds up even while accounting for demographic factors like education and race. Churchgoing Trump voters care far more than nonreligious ones about racial equality (67 percent versus 49 percent) and reducing poverty (42 percent versus 23 percent).

These differences are reflected in their actions, too. President Trump’s most religiously observant voters are three times as likely as secular Trump voters to volunteer—and not just with their own church. . . . Religious participation also appears to pull the president’s supporters away from the administration’s immigration policy. The more frequently Trump voters attend church, the more they support offering citizenship to illegal immigrants and making the immigration process easier, and the more opposed they become to the border wall. In fact, many conservative Christian churches disapprove of the Trump administration’s handling of immigration. . . .

Religious institutions also provide communities and identities that aren’t based upon immutable traits such as race or country of birth. Research suggests that identities that transcend race or nationality may lead people to feel more favorably toward racial and religious minorities. [Moreover], secular conservatives lack church membership to provide [a] sense of belonging and may succumb to the temptation to find it on the basis of their race, thereby bolstering white nationalism or the alt-right movement. We found that secular Trump voters are three times as likely as churchgoing Trump voters to say that their white racial identity is “extremely” important to them. . . .

Many progressives hope that encouraging conservatives to disengage from religion will make them more tolerant. But if the data serve as any guide, doing so may in fact make it even harder for left and right to meet in a more compassionate middle.

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