Last month, Fox News contributor, MAGA supporter and pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church Robert Jeffress said that if “Christian nationalist” means believing that “we ought to use elections to help return our country to its Christian foundation. If that’s Christian nationalism, count me in.”
Though he had publicly denied the label this summer, Jeffress has become the latest in a string of visible Christian right politicians and leaders to embrace it.
When we reached out to Jeffress to make sure we had the context right, he pointed out that he does not love his country more than his God, and doesn’t disciple others to do so.
Jeffress’ apparent reversal and confusion over the meaning of the label reflects part of a wider trend.
Early last summer, U.S. House Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., posted videos calling herself a “Christian nationalist” and calling on Republicans to become the “party of Christian nationalism.” She even sold T-shirts saying “Proud Christian Nationalist.” She’s since been joined by worship leader, election denier and former Republican House candidate Sean Feucht; ReAwaken America Tour founder Clay Clark; Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn; and influential pastor Doug Wilson in openly warming to the label, often positioning it as the only alternative to “secular globalism.”
And the trend goes beyond a few prominent leaders. In the past few months, popular books have been published calling for “Christian nationalism” by name. What used to be an underlying ideology that Christian right leaders denied or dismissed as fringe is now becoming an identity that they are leading their followers to embrace publicly.
But is it working? How many Americans actually identify with the label “Christian nationalist”?
In the first national survey to inquire directly about this issue, we asked a representative sample of more than 1,700 American adults how well “Christian nationalist” described them. Though prior research shows a large percentage of Americans embrace Christian nationalist beliefs to varying degrees, to date we still did not know the percentage who actually identified as Christian nationalists.
Roughly 25% of American adults (representing more than 50 million people) said the label described them either “very well” (11%) or somewhat well (14%). Among Republicans, that number rose to 45%, with more than 20% saying it described them “very well.”
In contrast, less than 17% of Democrats said the label described them either somewhat or very well. Nearly 69% said it didn’t describe them at all.