In a mammoth survey of 40,000 Americans in all 50 states, Public Religion Research Institute found that “only half (50%) of white Americans believe blacks face a lot of discrimination, while roughly as many (47%) say this is not the case. Majorities of black Americans (85%), Hispanics (66%), mixed-race Americans (64%), and Asian-Pacific Islander (API) Americans (55%) say blacks face significant levels of discrimination today.”
In particular, Republicans show very little awareness when it comes to discrimination against minority groups. “Republicans largely reject the idea that black Americans face a great deal of discrimination today. Fewer than one-third (32%) of Republicans believe blacks face a lot of discrimination in society, compared to roughly two-thirds (65%) who say they do not,” the report finds. “In contrast, nearly six in ten (58%) political independents and more than three-quarters (77%) of Democrats agree blacks experience a great deal of discrimination.”
Likewise, evangelicals don’t seem to think discrimination is much of an issue: “White Christians are generally less likely than other religious groups and the religiously unaffiliated to say that blacks experience significant discrimination. Only slightly more than one-third (36%) of white evangelical Protestants believe there is a lot of discrimination against blacks in the U.S. today, while six in ten (60%) disagree.”
That’s a somewhat depressing portrait of polarization, or some might say lack of empathy, when it comes to how certain groups of Americans view discrimination against minority groups. One wonders if the 24 percent who “do not believe any of these groups (black Americans, immigrants, or gay and lesbian people) experience a lot of discrimination” are overly optimistic or clueless or, more ominously, are imbued with the resentment — which President Trump has stoked– that leads white Christians to conclude they are the biggest victims of unfairness.
However, Americans are united in some impressive ways. For example, “Roughly six in ten (58%) Americans express support for same-sex marriage today, compared to 53% in 2015, a five-point increase.” Republicans (38 percent) remain the holdouts although younger Republicans are more like their non-Republican peers (54 percent). Remarkably, “No religious group has experienced a more dramatic shift in views on same-sex marriage than white mainline Protestants. Currently, 63% of white mainline Protestants support same-sex marriage, a 27-point increase from 2003 when only about one-third (36%) expressed support for the policy.”
In a rebuke to evangelical Christian leaders who claim their religious liberty is assaulted when they must provide services to gay and lesbian Americans, the vast majority of Americans reject this idea. “More than six in ten (61%) Americans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people, if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. Three in ten (30%) Americans favor this policy.” Even among evangelicals themselves, only 50 percent support the right to refuse service or sales. America, in a relatively short time, has come a very long way when it comes to equality for gays and lesbians.
And Republicans, who are three times as likely as non-Republicans to defend refusal to serve, nevertheless are trending toward the mainstream view. “In just the last year, Republican support for service refusals has dropped significantly. In 2015, a majority (55%) of Republicans favored allowing small businesses to refuse goods or services to gay and lesbian people if doing so would violate the owners’ religious beliefs. Political independents also experienced a decline in support, while changes among Democrats were more modest.” The right to refuse service seems to be a losing battle for evangelicals, just as their opposition to gay marriage was.
Finally, the country, even in the Trump era, is broadly supportive of a path to citizenship for those here illegally:
Today, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans say the immigration system should allow immigrants currently living in the country illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements; 15% prefer allowing immigrants living in the country illegally to become permanent legal residents but not citizens; and another 16% say these immigrants should be identified and deported. These numbers have remained largely unchanged since 2013. . . .
Three-quarters (75%) of Democrats say immigrants living in the country illegally should be granted a path to citizenship if they meet certain requirements, while a majority (55%) of Republicans say the same. Permanent legal residency is supported by relatively few Democrats (15%) and Republicans (13%), while deportation is a significantly more popular policy among Republicans (28%) than among Democrats (8%).
In general, Americans do not show a lot of support for discrimination against gays and lesbians or for mass deportation, two positions on which Trump supporters disagree with the majority of Americans. It is noteworthy that Republicans and evangelical Christians are both less likely to perceive discrimination against others and more willing to refuse service to gays and lesbians and to deport illegal immigrants. Trump seems to have particular success with the groups (whites, Republicans, evangelicals) who feel put upon and insist that there is a cultural war against Christians.
The unpleasant reality is that there are two kinds of Americans — one inclusive and tolerant, the other not. The latter seems disproportionately supportive of Trump.