In February 2017, as debate raged nationally over President Trump’s decision to curtail immigration to the United States, the conservative Christian Broadcasting Network dipped into the Bible to share what that sacred text said about refugees.
“Treat refugees the way you want to be treated,” it said, quoting Leviticus. “Invite the stranger in” (Matthew) and “Open your door to the traveler” (Job).
The first comment in reply to the article captures the tone of the rest of the feedback the site received: “Shame on CBN for this very poorly written article full of political rhetoric. This is not a Biblical issue.”
At the time, polling from Pew Research Center showed that about 56 percent of Americans believed that the United States had a responsibility to welcome refugees into the country. In the year since, that figure has dropped and is now at a bare majority, 51 percent.
But Pew’s new research includes a fascinating detail: No group agrees less with the idea that the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees than white evangelical Protestants.
Pew reports on attitudes toward refugees:
David Greene & Frank Newport at Gallup:
Americans rarely agree as overwhelmingly as they did in November 1938. Just two weeks after Nazi Germany coordinated a brutal nationwide attack against Jews within its own borders -- an event known as "Kristallnacht" -- Gallup asked Americans: "Do you approve or disapprove of the Nazi treatment of Jews in Germany?" Nearly everyone who responded -- 94% -- indicated that they disapproved.
Yet, even though nearly all Americans condemned the Nazi regime's terror against Jews in November 1938, that very same week, 72% of Americans said "No" when Gallup asked: "Should we allow a larger number of Jewish exiles from Germany to come to the United States to live?" Just 21% said "Yes."
Why this yawning gap between disapproval of the Nazi regime's persecutions and a willingness to aid refugees? Gallup polling on these topics during the Nazi era helps answer this question, providing important context for understanding Americans' responses to the threat of Nazism.
Americans' widespread disapproval of the Nazi regime's treatment of Jews could not necessarily be assumed in 1938, given evidence that the U.S. was not immune from its own xenophobia and discrimination.
Prejudice against Jews in the U.S. was evident in a number of ways in the 1930s. According to historian Leonard Dinnerstein, more than 100 new anti-Semitic organizations were founded in the U.S. between 1933 and 1941. One of the most influential, Father Charles Coughlin's National Union for Social Justice, spread Nazi propaganda and accused all Jews of being communists. Coughlin broadcast anti-Jewish ideas to millions of radio listeners, asking them to "pledge" with him to "restore America to the Americans."