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We know the country is divided because of how it feels - right? - not just what happens in Washington, but conversations with our friends and our family. It's not just a feeling, though. A new survey by the American Enterprise Institute finds deep divisions in the country over politics and religion. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.
TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Reports of a partisan division in America aren't new. But what stands out in this AEI survey is the level of anger among Republicans. Eight out of 10 said that the political system is stacked against traditionally minded people and that their way of life is disappearing so fast that, quote, "we may have to use force to save it." What could that mean? About four of 10 Republicans in the AEI survey actually agreed with the following statement - if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires taking violent action. Daniel Cox, who directed the AEI survey, calls that a dramatic finding.
DANIEL COX: I think any time you have a significant number of the public saying that use of force can be justified in our political system, that's pretty scary.
GJELTEN: Divisions were also evident along religious lines. About three in five white evangelicals said that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected, that it was not accurate to say Donald Trump encouraged the attack on the Capitol and that a Biden presidency now has them disappointed, angry or frightened. On all these questions, white evangelicals stand out from other faith groups.
COX: They are politically quite distinct.
GJELTEN: White evangelicals are also more likely than other faith groups to buy the Qanon movement's conspiracy theories. According to Cox, 27% said it was mostly or completely accurate to say Donald Trump has been secretly fighting a group of child sex traffickers that include prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites. That's more than double the support for Qanon theories evident among Hispanic Catholics, Black Protestants, the religiously unaffiliated and followers of non-Christian religions.
COX: White evangelicals do stand out in terms of belief in conspiracy theories and embracing ideas that violence or use of force can be necessary.
GJELTEN: So religious affiliation may be as important as political affiliation in explaining this new extremism in America.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News.
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