Poll finds ND GOP voters fear country losing Christian values

Support for “Christian nationalist” ideas mixed

Poll finds ND GOP voters fear country losing Christian values

Republican voters in the state have conservative Christian ideals they believe should be reflected in political decisions, but only up to a point, a new North Dakota Poll has found. 

Of voters surveyed, 73% fear that if the U.S. moves away from Christian foundations, the country will be in peril, according to the North Dakota News Cooperative (NDNC) poll, conducted May 20-22.

The NDNC poll surveyed 500 eligible voters – those likely to vote in the June 11 Republican primary – to gauge which candidates they will support, but also to better understand how Christian views inform political ideals in the state and overall satisfaction with the party. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.

The poll found that 71% believe U.S. laws should be based on Christian values, and 61% believe being Christian is an important part of being “truly American.” 

Those numbers indicate that more conservative factions within the NDGOP could have an advantage in upcoming primary elections, as long as they don’t veer too far right. 

More ultraconservative Christian ideas, sometimes termed “Christian nationalism,” drew a more mixed response. Prospective GOP voters are less likely to believe that God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society, with 42% agreeing with that sentiment, compared to 36% who disagreed. 

Another 54% believe the U.S. government should officially declare the country a Christian nation, while 30% disagree. 

Among candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives seat from North Dakota, former state representative Rick Becker appears to garner the most ultraconservative Christian voters as he led in all categories. 

A total of 83% of Becker voters believe U.S. laws should be based on Christian values, 63% think the country should be declared a Christian nation, 85% feel if the country moves away from Christian values, it will be in peril, and 65% of his voters’ tie Christianity with being truly American. 

Only 48% of Becker voters believe God has called Christians to exercise dominion over American society, but that led all other congressional candidates. 

brown wooden cross with flag of us a on top
Photo by Josh Eckstein / Unsplash

Christian Nationalism

While there is no strict definition for the term “Christian nationalism,” it is often described as a mélange of ideas that include some or all of the following: that the separation of church and state is not based on formal law, that the government should actively work to keep Christian identity intact through laws, that it should enact policies reflecting Christian ideals, and also supports the idea that God has a plan for the country based on those ideals. 

A 2023 study of the religious views of more than 22,000 adults nationwide found that roughly 30% of Americans either adhere to or sympathize with “Christian nationalism” ideas. That same study by the Public Religion Research Institute found North Dakota and Mississippi had the highest number of adherents or sympathizers in the country, with 50% of those surveyed falling into the two categories. 

While what it means to be Christian can cover a wide spectrum and denominations have varied beliefs and customs, the poll did not ask what faith within Christianity respondents considered themselves. Trevor Smith, chief research officer for WPA Intelligence, the Washington D.C.-based firm that conducted the poll for NDNC, said polls like this are meant to leave it up for respondents themselves to define what constitutes Christian values. 

According to Pew Research Center, 28% of adults in North Dakota are mainline Protestant, 26% Catholic and 22% evangelical Protestant, while another 20% consider themselves atheist or agnostic. A total of 64% consider themselves absolute believers in a Christian God. 

Kimberly Porter, a retired professor from the History department at the University of North Dakota, said churches in North Dakota tend to be relatively conservative, and that church attendance is high compared to other states, with concerns filtering out into the voting booth among the more vocal.

“I think a concern for a lot of people is, this isn’t the world they grew up in, this isn’t what they were promised,” Porter said of fears some have of Christian ideals eroding on a national level that eventually get reflected in local political action. 

person holding white and red box
Photo by Janine Robinson / Unsplash

Party splits 

The NDNC poll also found Republicans in the state split on the direction of the party, with 45% believing it is headed in the right direction and 37% who feel it is not. Another 19% are undecided. 

The NDGOP has become much more factious in recent years, with some members veering more ultraconservative while others try to carve out a center-right coalition. 

With former President Donald Trump running again for the top office, most also claim support for Trump even if they are not outright Trumpian. 

A center-right group of Republicans led by former NDGOP Chair Perrie Schafer recently formed the LegeNDary Fund to support center-right candidates, while some center-right incumbents skipped district endorsing conventions and the state convention in early April.  

One of the more high-profile convention votes came when Jim Bartlett, former executive director of the North Dakota Homeschool Association who advocates putting the 10 Commandments in public schools, defeated incumbent Kirsten Baesler for the party endorsement for superintendent of public instruction by a 967 to 426 vote. 

In the race for Governor, 49% of those likely voting for Congressman Kelly Amstrong believe the party is headed in the right direction, while 48% likely voting for Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller believe the party is going in the wrong direction. 

Among candidates for the soon-open U.S. House seat, Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak had the highest percentage of those who feel the party is going in the right direction with 51%. A large segment of potential voters for attorney and former Miss America Cara Mund feel the party is on the wrong track, with 73%. 

Among those polled, 39% self-identified as very conservative, 31% as somewhat conservative, and 23% as moderate Republicans.  

The Republican party has dominated state politics since 1995, holding all branches of state government since that time.

The North Dakota News Cooperative is a nonprofit news organization providing reliable and independent reporting on issues and events that impact the lives of North Dakotans. The organization increases the public’s access to quality journalism and advances news literacy across the state. For more information about NDNC or to make a charitable contribution, please visit newscoopnd.org. Send comments, suggestions or tips to michael@newscoopnd.org. Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NDNewsCoop.