Although we don’t know how widespread belief in the replacement conspiracy theory is, shooters have used it to rationalize violence before. Because of this connection to violence and white supremacy, these ideas are often seen as extreme, believed only on the margins of society. But when we looked closer, we found evidence that a sizable segment of the Western population embraces some of the more benign aspects of these beliefs.
To estimate the extent of these beliefs among the American public, we examined two national surveys.
First, with support from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), we conducted a probability-based online panel survey via the Ipsos KnowledgePanel service among a random national sample of 1 027 adults. in April. These panels recruit respondents using address-based sampling and then weight the results by Current population survey estimates.
Then we used the 2021 American Values Survey of PRRI. The 2021 AVS also used Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel to gather a probability-based online sample of 2,508 US adults in September, weighted to match the CPS. Here’s what we found.
A significant portion of white Americans fear diversity
In our survey, we find that more than an insignificant number of Americans feel threatened by the idea of a more diverse America. Some researchers to find that learning about the growth of the non-white population in the United States leads some to adopt more conservative political positions and to identify with one party. Others simply understand American identity in a limited way.
White people in our survey were particularly likely to fear a diversifying nation. Of all respondents, 31% ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ agree with the statement: ‘Immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background’. Among Whites, 37.3% somewhat or strongly agree. In the survey, 31.2% of all respondents strongly agree or somewhat agree with the statement: “Efforts to increase diversity always come at the expense of white people.” Among whites, 38.9% agree.
In our sample, 14% of all respondents somewhat or strongly agree that “the idea of an America where most people aren’t white bothers me.” Among whites, 16.8% do.
More than a third of respondents in our sample (34.6%) somewhat or strongly agree that “the idea of an America that is not a Christian nation bothers me”. Among whites, it was significantly higher, 40.3%.
Although these figures show that the majority of Americans reject narrow conceptions of the national fabric, a solid minority rejects pluralism and fears what it means for the United States.
Conspiracy theories are spreading wildly. Why now?
Both sides promote different perspectives on demographic change and replacement
Our results suggest that partisanship influences these different views of diversity. In the figure below, we show the answers to two of the above questions for Democrats (in blue) and Republicans (in red). As you can see, across the board, a majority of Democrats strongly disagree with elements of the Great Replacement conspiracy theory.
Republicans, however, are much more divided. A majority agrees that diversity efforts are at the expense of white people and that immigrants are replacing American culture. Additional analysis suggests an increasingly non-Christian, non-white nation is bothering them.
Those who fear demographic change are also more likely to say violence is necessary
But are fears about demographic change linked to support for violence? For this we looked at the AVS 2021 from the Institute for Research on Public Religions survey, which found that 18% of those polled agree, “Because things have gotten so off the rails, true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save our country.” His survey also included a question asked of half the sample about how demographic change would affect the country. Noting that the share of whites in the US population is shrinking, the survey asked whether respondents thought the change would be “mostly negative”, “mostly positive” or that it “doesn’t matter anyway”. At least 60% said the change didn’t matter anyway.
However, the 19% of the sample who think demographic change is primarily negative were much more likely to agree that patriots might need to resort to violence – around a third of those 19% agree. OK. Surveys always have a margin or error, but these estimates suggest that those who both reject a diverse America and think violence is necessary represent about 6% of the adult American population (with a margin of error of between 3 .5 and 8.5%), or approximately between 10 and 20 million people.
How the ‘Great Replacement’ Theory Led to the Buffalo Mass Shooting
Our evidence suggests that about 6% of American adults — not an insignificant proportion — deplore diversity and endorse violence. More broadly, nearly a third of white American adults fear demographic replacement. The Buffalo shooting shows how the threat many perceive from pluralism can turn into real-world violence, with a tragic loss of life, leaving people of color feeling vulnerable to daily attacks.
But it also draws attention to a larger pattern of beliefs held by some Americans today. People who fear being replaced are likely to reject a diverse national fabric. Until this sense of fear and white grievances are resolved, we are likely to see more violence targeting minorities.