Is Christianity Central to American Identity? Most Believe US Is Losing Its Identity

Immigrants, Citizenship
New U.S. citizens hold American flags as they take the oath of citizenship during a naturalization ceremony beneath the Statue of Liberty during ceremonies marking the 125th anniversary of the Statue at Liberty Island in New York, October 28, 2011. |

A national poll has found that while there is deep disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over whether Christianity is central to American identity, a majority of the population agrees that the country is losing its identity as a whole.

Seven out of 10 of those who responded to The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, conducted Feb. 16-20 from a sample of 1,004 U.S. adults, believe that America is losing its identity.

The poll found that the question is one of the very few where there is agreement among Democrats, independents, and Republicans, but exposed deep disagreements over what this American identity actually is.

As CBS News pointed out, about 57 percent of Republicans cited Christianity as being inherent to America while only 29 percent of Democrats agreed. On the other hand, 65 percent of Democrats said that the mix of global cultures was extremely or very important to the American identity, compared to only 35 percent of Republicans who said the same.

"It's such stark divisions," said Lynele Jones, a 65-year-old Democrat from Boulder, Colorado.

"There's so much turmoil in the American political situation right now. People's ideas of what is America's place in the world are so different from one end of the spectrum to the other," Jones added.

Overall, Christian religious beliefs were ranked near the bottom in terms of what is critical to the American identity, with only 40 percent of Americans saying a culture grounded in Christian religious beliefs is extremely important.

A separate survey from the American Culture and Faith Institute in February found that though a majority of Americans (more than seven out of 10) call themselves Christians, very few (only one in 10) actually hold a distinctly biblical worldview.

What Americans did rank highly in terms of what is very important to the American identity is having a fair judicial system and rule of law finding at the top, with 88 percent of respondents saying so.

Individual freedoms, the ability to achieve the American dream, the shared use of English and the country's government institutions were also in the top five.

Reggie Lawrence, a 44-year-old Republican in Midland, Texas, who runs a business servicing oil fields, commented, "If you lose your identity, what are we? We're not a country anymore."

The questions of legal immigration and refugees also revealed a large divide among political parties.

While at least half of independents (51 percent) and Republicans (57 percent) agreed that the benefits of legal immigration outweigh the risks, Democrats (81 percent) were far more likely to back that statement.

Sixty-seven percent of Democrats also argued that the benefit of admitting refugees outweighs the risks, while only 17 percent of Republicans agreed.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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