One-fourth of white evangelicals and Republicans say they believe the tenets of the debunked QAnon conspiracy theory, according to a new survey that also found that Republicans who watch Fox News and right-wing news outlets are the most likely to embrace it.
The poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, released Monday, found that 23 percent of white evangelicals and 26 percent of Republicans believe three major tenets of the QAnon theory, which has falsely predicted, multiple times, that Donald Trump would retake the White House this year.
The survey did not mention "QAnon" or "Trump" in its questions about the theory but instead asked Americans if they agreed or disagreed with three specific statements:
- "There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders."
- "The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation."
- "Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country."
Republicans who watch Fox News (30 percent) and right-wing news media (44 percent) are the most likely to believe the three tenets.
White evangelicals are the religious subgroup most likely to believe in the QAnon tenets, followed by Hispanic Catholics (18 percent), black Protestants (16 percent) and white Catholics (15 percent).
Overall, about one in five Americans agree with the tenets, although education seems to play a role. For example, only 6 percent of white Americans with four-year college degrees and only 3 percent of those with postgraduate degrees believe in the QAnon tenets.
Ed Stetzer, a dean and professor at Wheaton College, says evangelicals harm their gospel witness when they embrace QAnon.
"Believers are to be people of the truth as the Jesus we follow literally calls himself 'truth' (John 14:6)," Stetzer wrote in aUSA Today column last year. "Without a rigorous pursuit of truth, we can see anger to the point that people will take up arms as we saw in Pizza-gate, where a guy came with a gun to rescue the children trapped in the basement – in a store with no basement.
"... Years ago, Mark Noll wrote about the 'Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.' If there is anything that represents the scandal of the evangelical mind right now, it's the gullibility of Christians who need to be discipled into critical thinking about how to engage the world around them. We need to be able to see through the bias and discern conspiracy theories that have risen to the level of messianic religion."
Author and Christian apologist Mary Jo Sharp also believes the embrace of conspiracy theories harms the cause of Christ.
"Irresponsibility with information unravels the impact of a Christian's witness to those in their community, and, with social media, to the broader world," she told Lifeway earlier this year. "The non-Christian may begin to believe or become further ingrained in the culturally popular belief that Christians are anti-intellectual, including anti-science."
The survey involved interviews with 2,508 Americans.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Scott Olson/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.