The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The share of Republicans who think there’s a lot of discrimination is plummeting

Discrimination based on identity is as old as America itself. But these days, fewer Republicans believe that groups are discriminated against because of their identity — and that could have ramifications on laws protecting against discrimination.

The percentage of Republicans who believe there is discrimination against groups that have been historically marginalized is decreasing. While more than 7 in 10 Democrats say women experience a lot of discrimination, 14 percent of Republicans say the same, according to a report by the Public Religion Research Institute. Five years ago, more than a quarter of Republicans said women experience a lot of discrimination.

In this same period, the percentage of Democrats who believe women experience discrimination has increased. About 55 percent of Democrats in 2013 believed women experienced a lot of discrimination. But that number has increased by 16 percentage points in 2018.

In the past few years, the percentage of Republicans who believe that Muslims, LGBT people and Jews face discrimination has dropped. Meanwhile, organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that monitor hate crimes have reported a spike in such crimes against members of certain minority groups.

In 2017, hate crimes in the nation’s 10 largest cities reached the highest level in more than a decade, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino.

The Washington Post's Abigail Hauslohner wrote:

Crimes motivated by race or ethnicity bias are consistently the most common type of reported hate crime, and African Americans are the most targeted group, representing 23 percent of all hate crimes reported in major cities in 2017. Jews are consistently the most targeted religious group, and represented 19 percent of all hate crimes reported in major cities in 2017.

An interesting side note is how some people of faith view discrimination against other people of faith. While a majority (59 percent) of white evangelical Protestants — one of the Republican Party's most reliable voting blocs — believed five years ago that Muslims face a lot of discrimination, less than half (46 percent) feel the same way today.

However, the number of black Protestants who believe Muslims face a lot of discrimination has increased in the past five years. Nearly 8 in 10 black Protestants believe Muslims face a lot of discrimination, compared with 56 percent five years ago. And the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans who say Muslims face a lot of discrimination is up to 76 percent from 70 percent five years ago.

Most white evangelical Protestants (57 percent) believe there's a lot of discrimination against Christians. In fact, more white evangelicals believe there's a lot of discrimination against Christians than the number who believe the same about Muslims.

In a country where discrimination is not uncommon, what political bases think about discrimination can shape what lawmakers do about it. The Justice Department recently announced plans to launch a “religious-liberty task force” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions says will help ensure that the rights of people of faith are protected in a country that he says has become “less hospitable” to them.

Sessions, a former GOP lawmaker from Alabama, articulated the concerns of many of the white evangelicals who sent him to Washington when he said this month: “A dangerous movement, undetected by many but real, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom. There can be no doubt. It’s no little matter. It must be confronted intellectually and politically and defeated. This election, this past election, and much that has flowed from it, gives us a rare opportunity to arrest these trends and to confront them.”

The way the government responds to concerns about discrimination is not necessarily a popularity contest. But many people who are worried about discrimination are also worried about what the lack of concern about it within the base that put Sessions in power will mean for his and the broader Trump administration's policy decisions.