Nearly one-in-five U.S. adults believe in the two central elements of “replacement theory,” according to a report published May 9 by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago.
Around one third (32%) of all respondents either strongly or somewhat agree that “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.”
A slightly smaller number (29%) of U.S. adults are either extremely or very concerned “that native-born Americans are losing economic, political and cultural influence in this country because of the growing population of immigrants.”
Combined, 17% of all respondents were both strongly / somewhat concerned about being replaced and were extremely / very concerned about losing influence.
These statements express two central tenets of replacement theory, which AP-NORC defines as the belief that “there is a group of powerful people in this country who are trying to permanently alter the culture and voting strength of native-born Americans by bringing in large groups of immigrants.”
A May 15 article in The New York Times reported that the gunman in the mass shooting at the supermarket in Buffalo, New York, had published “a lengthy screed posted online that the shoppers there came from a culture that sought to ‘ethnically replace my own people.’”
In addition to the Buffalo shooting, the article also cited the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and the 2019 Walmart shooting in El Paso as instances of mass shootings that are “all linked by one sprawling, ever-mutating belief now commonly known as replacement theory.”
Among the respondents to the AP-NORC survey who believe in the tenets of replacement theory, 45% say OANN / Newsmax is their preferred cable news channel, followed by Fox News (31%), CNN (13%) and MSNBC (11%).
The survey also polled other conspiratorial ideas to determine how such thinking might influence views on immigration.
To determine those who are prone to believe conspiracy theories, respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with four statements related to whether events are the result of secret plots directed by a small group of people.
The top 25% of respondents, designated as “high conspiratorial thinkers,” were most likely to affirm “that events are the product of plots executed in secret … are directed by a small group of powerful people … who are unknown to voters … and who control the outcome of big events like wars, recessions, and the outcome of elections.”
Analyzing demographic data based on whether the respondent was a high conspiratorial thinker or not didn’t yield any notable differences when it came to race / ethnicity, income or education level.
However, there were three demographics that tended toward being a high conspiratorial thinker.
“This group is more likely to identify as Republican (45% vs. 38%), consider themselves born-again [evangelical] Christians (38% vs. 28%), and interpret the Bible literally (36% vs. 26%) than the general population,” the report said.
High conspiratorial thinkers were more likely than the average U.S. adult to say it is important for the nation’s identity to be rooted in Christianity, to have a culture that was established by the early European immigrants to the nation, and for there to be a shared set of values.
Almost half (44%) of all survey participants self-identified as evangelical or born-again Christians.
Across all respondents, nearly the same number (43%) said that “a culture grounded in Christian religious beliefs” was extremely or very important to national identity. Among only the high conspiratorial thinkers, a majority (61%) agreed that this was extremely / very important to national identity.