Religious Leaders and Their Constituents Do Not See Eye-to-Eye on Welcoming Refugees

By Nayla Rush on May 25, 2018

The Pew Research Center has released the results of its latest survey on "whether the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees". Opinions varied by political affiliation, race, age, education, and religion.

By religious affiliation, the percentages of those who say the United States does not have a responsibility to accept refugees into the country vs. those who say it does are as follows:

  Does Not Have a Responsibility Has a Responsibility
White Evangelical Protestant 68 25
White Mainline Protestant 50 43
Black Protestant 28 63
Catholic 45 50
Unaffiliated 31 65


So two-thirds of white evangelicals and close to half of Catholics and Mainline Protestants do not think the United States has a responsibility to resettle refugees from abroad into American communities.

The leadership of the nine mostly religious domestic resettlement agencies (called voluntary agencies or "volags") that work with, and are funded by, the Department of State to resettle refugees inside the United States should take note of these findings. The volags include groups affiliated with, or directly run by, evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Catholic churches. They have been very critical of the Trump administration's refugee policies. Other appeals for more resettlement came from 353 religious leaders and 76 faith-based organizations across faith traditions, who wrote President Trump "decrying low refugee arrivals".

These religious leaders and heads of faith-based organizations need to listen to their own constituents.

My colleague Steven Camarota analyzed the disconnect between religious leaders and their members on immigration issues. He wrote almost a decade ago:

In contrast to many national religious leaders who are lobbying for increases in immigration numbers, a new Zogby poll of likely voters who belong to the same religious communities finds strong support for reducing overall immigration. Moreover, the poll finds that members strongly disagree with their leaders' contention that more immigrant workers need to be allowed into the country.

The same could be said on refugees today. As Camarota noted, "religious communities often do not represent the public policy views of their members."

Topics: Refugees