About one-third of all Americans think that you have to be a Christian to truly be an American.
In a timely survey released Wednesday afternoon, just as the United States is debating the merits of suspending immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, the Pew Research Center asked residents of numerous nations what it takes to truly belong in their countries. Americans were far more likely than residents of other countries included in the survey to say that religion was key to sharing in the national identity.
Thirty-two percent of Americans said one should be Christian to really be American, compared to just 13 percent of Australians, 15 percent of Canadians and 15 percent of Europeans who felt the same way about belonging in their homelands.
The same number of Americans — 32 percent — said that being born in the United States is key to being an American. More Americans — 45 percent — said that sharing “national customs and traditions” was important, and many more — 70 percent — said being an American meant speaking English.
Religion was the only question on which Americans were an outlier. On birth, language and customs, America fell in line with other industrialized nations.
Republicans, who are themselves more likely to be Christian, said at a higher rate that one need be Christian to be American: 43 percent compared to 29 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents.
This opinion is apparently becoming much less popular with the younger generation of Americans, who are less likely to affiliate with a religion than generations before them. Among adults over 50, 44 percent told Pew that being Christian was key to being American; among those younger than 35, 18 percent said so.